The playoff race in the East is going all the way. Sibir moved to within two points of Traktor after clawing back an 0-4 deficit at Neftekhimik. The home team, however, got the winner in OT to lie one point further back in a three-way tussle for eighth place. Kunlun Red Star will no longer be part of that conversation, though. A 3-1 defeat in Astana ends its playoff hopes and sees Barys close to clinching top spot in the Chernyshev Division.
Vyacheslav Ushenin scored his 51st goal for Amur to establish a new club record as the Far East team edged past Avangard on Thursday. The Khbarovsk club is battling to avoid finishing bottom of the Eastern Conference and picked up a handy victory over an opponent seeking to win the Chernyshev Division.
Ushenin’s big moment came late in the first period when he opened the scoring. Like many of his previous 50 goals for the club, he was assisted by twin brother Vladislav. The second stanza saw Amur extend its lead to 3-0: Danil Faizullin and Jan Kolar found the net, Tomas Zohorna assisted twice and Kolar picked up a helper as well.
Avangard belatedly got back into the game. Viktor Stalberg scored his first goal for a month to reduce the deficit late in the middle frame and the visitor kept up the pressure in the third. Maxim Chudinov made it a one-goal game with five minutes to play but there was to be no dramatic finale as Amur held on for the win.
Daniil Tarasov made his KHL debut between the piping for Salavat Yulaev – but despite 32 saves the youngster finished on the losing side. Tarasov, son of Ufa goaltending legend Vadim Tarasov, helped Russia to World Championship bronze earlier this year and got his chance on this Far Eastern tour as head coach Nikolai Tsulygin assesses the depth of his roster ahead of the playoffs.
However, it was Admiral’s young goalie Anton Krasotkin who skated off with the win and a third shut-out in his KHL career. He stopped 22 shots as he continued an impressive run of recent form.
The game was won in the first period, with Admiral shooting home three goals without reply as Salavat managed just three shots at Krasotkin. Kirill Voronin opened the scoring early on, Vojtech Polak doubled the lead midway through the session and Konstantin Glazachev added a power play goal to complete the scoring. The visitor provided more of an offensive presence later in the game but could not find a way to get back into the game.
A 3-1 win at home to Red Star ended the Chinese team’s theoretical playoff prospects and put Barys on the brink of clinching the Chernyshev Division title. Two goals from Pavel Akolzin, either side of Roman Starchenko’s second goal in three games, gave the Kazakhs a win that puts them four points clear of Avangard and just one point away from securing top spot in the section.
Kunlun knew that only victory would keep it in with a chance of sneaking into eighth place, but the visitor struggled to get into the game in the first period and fell behind in the 15th minute to Akolzin’s first of the game. Starchenko doubled that lead midway through the second, and Akolzin forced home a third goal when he finished off a short-handed rush from Patrice Cormier midway through the third.
The visitor managed a consolation goal through Justin Fontaine with nine minutes left to play but did not seriously threaten a repeat of its victory here in January. With just four games left, Kunlun is now an insurmountable nine points adrift of eighth-placed Traktor and misses the playoffs for the second time in the club’s three seasons of competition.
Sibir produced a remarkable fightback in Nizhnekamsk, clawing back a 0-4 deficit to earn a point that moves it just two behind eighth-placed Traktor. Neftekhimik, though, secured the win in overtime and is just three adrift of the playoff places as the Eastern Conference race goes to the wire.
The home team made a blistering start to the game, racing into a 4-0 lead in the first period. Rafael Bikmullin opened the scoring after just 25 seconds and after Neftekhimik killed a power play, Arsen Khisamutdinov doubled that lead in the sixth minute. Then came two home power plays, converted by Pavel Poryadin and Arsen Khisamutdinov’s second of the game. Nikolai Demidov pulled one back for Sibir moments before the first intermission – and that proved to be a sign of things to come.
The start of the middle frame saw Sibir get right back into it. A penalty on Damir Musin led to Viktor Komarov making it 2-4 and within a minute Yegor Milovzorov had the puck in the home net again. This time, though, the video showed interference on goalie Ilya Ezhov and the goal did not stand. Neftekhimik enjoyed that reprieve but could do little to prevent Dmitry Sayustov clawing back a third goal, again on the power play, in the 35th minute to set up an intriguing third period.
Komarov collected his second PP marker of the night with five minutes left to force overtime and bag his team a potentially crucial additional point in that playoff race. However, Sibir’s fightback ultimately fell short: Neftekhimik grabbed the winner in the extras through Mikael Ruohomaa.