Andy Potts Andy Potts
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A high-scoring day saw 52 goals in nine KHL games – but it was a solitary strike in Moscow that might be the most significant of them. Anton Glinkin’s goal for Traktor, plus 36 saves from Alexander Sudnitsin, put the Chelyabinsk team just one point away from reaching the playoffs. Another shut-out in Riga produced another vital result, with Dinamo defeating Slovan to move just one point drift of eighth-placed Vityaz in the Western playoff race. Vityaz went down 6-1 at CSKA; the Muscovites are now just one win away from beating SKA to the regular season title. Avtomobilist secured top spot in the Eastern Conference with a win over Neftekhimik, Ak Bars and Jokerit both edged nine goal thrillers.

Butuzov’s strike sinks Barys

Admiral Vladivostok 2 Barys Astana 1 (1-0, 0-0, 1-1)

Admiral defeated the Chernyshev Division winner and ended the Kazakh team’s hopes of topping the Eastern Conference. A late goal from Vladimir Butuzov gave the home team a 2-1 victory.

Admiral had the better of the first period and deservedly led at the intermission thanks to Alexander Mereskin’s fifth goal of the season midway through the session. However, the home team was unable to press home its advantage in the middle stanza and found itself tied at 1-1 when Nikita Mikhailis struck early in the third. Barys looked poised to go on and win it after having the better of the final frame but Butuzov scored in the 59th minute to give Admiral the verdict.

Amur thrashes Red Star

Amur Khabarovsk 7 Kunlun Red Star 2 (1-1, 4-0, 2-1)

Amur inflicted Red Star’s heaviest defeat of the season to make it four wins on the spin as the Khabarovsk team ends the season on a high. Kunlun, meanwhile, is drifting towards the end of the campaign on a losing streak – this was a sixth successive loss for the Chinese team.

The first period offered few clues about the final score. Red Star took the lead in the second minute when Blake Parlett surprised Marek Langhamer with a point shot. The visitor had the better of the play but was unable to add to its lead and saw Vyacheslav Ushenin bring the host level late in the frame.

Then everything changed. Amur smashed three goals in two minutes to seize control of the game and added a fifth late in the frame with a power play marker from Nikita Kamalov. Amur fired in 30 shots at Alexander Lazushin during that middle frame as Kunlun’s bright start disappeared. Chinese goalie Sun Zehao came to the crease for the final frame and stopped 13 of the 15 shots he faced. Pavel Dedunov and Anton Lazarev grabbed two more markers for the home team before Brandon Yip completed the scoring with a well-taken solo effort for Red Star.

Avtomobilist seals Eastern Conference title

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 5 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 3 (3-1, 1-2, 1-0)

For the first time ever, Avtomobilist finished as Eastern Conference champion. The Yekaterinburg team wrapped up top spot with a win over Neftekhimik after defeat for Barys earlier in the day eliminated the last rival for first place.

To celebrate that success, Avto made a flying start with three goals in the 11 minutes. Anatoly Golyshev opened the scoring on three minutes, Georgy Belousov made it two on the power play 74 seconds later and Stephane Da Costa made it 3-0 midway through the frame.

Neftekhimik hit back and goals from Mikael Ruohomaa and Pavel Poryadin got the scores back to 3-2 early in the second period. However, Avto would not be denied and a power play goal from Nigel Dawes kept a gap between the teams. Poryadin’s second put Neftekhimik back in the game before Golyshev wrapped it up with his second of the game.

Ak Bars climbs to third

Ak Bars Kazan 5 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4 (1-1, 2-2, 2-1)

Games between these Eastern Conference big-hitters are always keenly-anticipated and this one delivered an encounter of playoff intensity. The teams traded nine goals, the lead changed hands more than once, and Ak Bars edged its old foe thanks to a late goal from Vyacheslav Osnovin.

The home team made a perfect start when Anton Lander opened the scoring after 37 seconds. However, once Sergei Mozyakin tied the scores late in the first period, Ak Bars would not lead again until Osnovin’s 57th minute tally. In the interim, Magnitka forged ahead three times, only to be pegged back by the host.

Roman Lyubimov made it 2-1 early in the second period before a flurry of three goals in 90 seconds saw the scores locked at 3-3 when the teams left for the second intermission. Danis Zaripov and Rob Klinkhammer scored for Ak Bars with Matt Ellison putting Metallurg briefly back in front between those two.

Early in the third, defensemen Viktor Antipin and Albert Yarullin traded goals. But, with overtime looking likely, Osnovin popped up to grab the winner and lift the defending champion ahead of Metallurg and into third place in the Eastern Conference.

CSKA cruises past Vityaz

CSKA Moscow 6 Vityaz Moscow Region 1 (3-0, 1-0, 2-1)

CSKA recorded its eighth successive victory to remain on course to win the regular season championship. Vityaz, meanwhile, suffered a sixth straight loss and still has some way to go to secure its playoff spot.

Photo: 18.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. CSKA (Moscow) - Vityaz (Moscow Region)

The home team wasted little time in taking control of the game. Klas Dahlback opened the scoring in the seventh minute and two minutes later Anton Slepyshev doubled that lead. Andrei Svetlakov made it 3-0 four seconds before the first intermission and the Army Men were well on the way to their 51st victory in 60 games this season.

Konstantin Okulov added a third late in the middle frame after the visitors had Nikita Komarov ejected for fighting. In the final frame, Artyom Chmykhov got his first KHL goal and Mat Robinson extended CSKA’s lead in the last five minutes before Alexei Makeyev denied Lars Johansson a 10th shut-out of the season with a goal barely a minute before the end.

The win maintains CSKA’s three-point lead over SKA at the top of the table. Both teams have two games to play and victory next time out will guarantee the Muscovites the title. Vityaz, meanwhile, missed the chance to overtake Sochi and return to seventh place. Valery Belov’s team is now just one point clear of Dinamo Riga; all three contenders have two games left.

SKA keeps up the pressure

SKA St. Petersburg 4 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 0 (2-0, 1-0, 1-0)

SKA kept its hopes of clinching the regular season championship alive with a comfortable victory over third-placed Lokomotiv – but the Petersburg team is still relying on a slip-up from CSKA to give it a chance of top spot.

An early goal from Sergei Plotnikov gave SKA the edge in an even first period and the former Lokomotiv man doubled that advantage early in the second. Next came the latest assist from record-breaker Nikita Gusev, who moved on to 62 helpers for the season when Alexander Barabanov redirected his shot past Ilya Konovalov. That goal brought Alexander Salak off the bench to replace the youngster.

The Czech international slowed SKA’s offense: it wasn’t until late in the game that Barabanov beat him on the power play. However, there was little danger to Igor Shestyorkin’s net at the other end and the goalie secured his 25th shut-out for the club to equal Mikko Koskinen’s record in the KHL era.

Vital win for Traktor

Dynamo Moscow 0 Traktor Chelyabinsk 0 (0-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Alexander Sudnitsin made 36 saves to give Traktor a priceless two points from this trip to Moscow. The Chelyabinsk team had lost four in a row and was in danger of missing out on the playoffs, but Sudnitsin’s heroics meant that Anton Glinkin’s third-period goal was enough to secure victory for the visitor.

Photo: 18.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Dynamo (Moscow) - Traktor (Chelyabinsk)

This game had a sense of deja-vu about it. Back in October Sudnitsin stopped 30 saves as Traktor won by a single third-period goal on home ice. This time, Glinkin’s game-winner came in the 52nd minute, while Sudnitsin’s busiest period came in the second session when he made 18 saves while seeing his team-mates generate just three attempts at the other end. For Dynamo, this was the eighth time the team had failed to score this season.

Traktor’s win moves it four points clear of ninth-placed Sibir. Both teams have two games to play but the Siberians have more wins in regulation. As a result, Traktor needs one more point – or Sibir to drop a point in its remaining outings – in order to secure that playoff spot. Defeat for Dynamo ensures that the Muscovites will finish fifth in the West and that playoff series against Jokerit will start in Helsinki.

Jokerit edges Spartak, snaps losing streak

Jokerit Helsinki 5 Spartak Moscow 4 (2-1, 1-2, 2-1)

Jokerit returned to Finland and began its final preparations for the playoffs with a high-scoring win over Spartak. The Finns snapped a three game losing streak as they made sure of fourth place in the West; Spartak stumbled to a sixth loss in seven and could yet be overtaken by seventh-placed Sochi.

This game was full of goals from start to finish. The teams wasted little time trading goals, and Jokerit led 2-1 in the eighth minute thanks to markers from Viktor Loov and Sami Lepisto. Despite that, the teams only shared 12 shots on goal in the opening session.

The second period saw Spartak rally and take a 3-2 lead on goals from Ben Maxwell and Artyom Fyodorov. Niklas Jensen’s one-timer quickly brought Jokerit level once more and the Dane assisted as Steve Moses restored the home lead early in the third. A major penalty for John Norman didn’t much help Spartak: Brian O’Neill potted a short-handed goal to extend the Jokers’ advantage. Robin Hanzl’s second of the game late on kept Spartak interested but the host held on for an exhilarating win.

Bilyalov blanks Slovan, Riga’s hopes continue

Dinamo Riga 5 Slovan Bratislava 0 (0-0, 2-0, 3-0)

Dinamo recorded a third straight victory and is now just one point outside the playoff places with two games to play. A shut-out from Timur Bilyalov helped to lift the Latvians past basement club Slovan and intensify the pressure on Vityaz as the season enters its final week.

It wasn’t until late in the second period that Dinamo got in front here. The host enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges but could not force a goal until Oskars Batnja beat Jakub Stepanek in the 35th minute. A power play goal from Linus Videll quickly doubled that lead before Stepanek’s evening got much worse early in the third. The Czech goalie took a minor for roughing and things quickly snowballed. A misconduct penalty followed and he was ultimately ejected from the game for abusing the officials. Replacement netminder Michal Vojvoda was beaten inside two minutes of his KHL debut as Andris Dzerinsconverted the power play. The 18-year-old allowed two more power play goals late in the game as Rihards Marenis and a second from Dzerins gave the final scoreline a one-sided look. Bilyalov made 22 saves for his fourth shut-out of the season.

Dinamo now faces end-of-season trips to Severstal and CSKA as it looks for the points that will push it into the top eight. Vityaz, its closest rival, entertains Dinamo Minsk and Avtomobilist as it tries to clinch its playoff spot.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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