Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The big story of the day was the race for the two remaining playoff spots in the West. Sochi secured its place with a minimum of fuss, beating Slovan 2-0. Vityaz, though, had a nervous time of it. Beaten 5-1 by Avtomobilist, it was saved by Dinamo Riga’s loss at CSKA Moscow. Nikita Gusev picked up two points for SKA, taking his tally for the season to 81. Only Sergei Mozyakin has got beyond 80 points in a KHL season before. Mozyakin’s Metallurg beat Ak Bars 4-0 to seal third place in the table; the defending champion will face Avangard in an intriguing playoff pairing.

Admiral condemns Amur to the basement

Admiral Vladivstok 1 Amur Khabarovsk 0 (0-0, 0-0, 1-0)

This Far East derby had no impact on the playoff picture but there was still plenty for both teams to play for. The loser would be left in last place in the Eastern Conference while the winner would leave with three victories from the five games between the two this season.

Both teams were in decent form coming into the game. Amur’s five-game winning run had it ending the season on a high, while three weeks ago the Tigers had powered to a 7-0 win over Admiral. The Sailors, meanwhile, were looking to make it eight wins in 10 games since that embarrassing loss.

The only goal came early in the third period when Alexander Mereskin beat Marek Langhamer from between the hashmarks. Anton Krasotkin recorded his fourth shut-out in eight appearances, with the 21-year-old making 25 saves.

Barys snaps losing streak with shoot-out win

Kunlun Red Star 2 Barys Astana 3 SO (1-1, 1-0, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

Barys, already secure in second place in the East, warmed up for a playoff clash with Torpedo by snapping a three-game losing streak. A shoot-out win in Beijing wrapped up the regular season for the Kazakhs.

The teams shared 35 shots on goal in a lively first period, but went into the interval locked at 1-1. Yegor Petukhov snaffled a short-handed goal for the visitor early on but Red Star’s next power play brought a tying goal for Drew Shore. Wojtek Wolski got his second goal in two games after recovering from injury as Kunlun went ahead in the second period, but Andre Petersson redirected a Maxim Semyonov shot to make it 2-2 early in the third.

Kunlun came close to winning it in overtime after enjoying a power play but the game went to a shoot-out and unanswered goals from Brandon Bochenski and Roman Starchenko secured the verdict for the visitor. Kunlun’s bonus point sees the Chinese team finish third from bottom in the East.

Metallurg secures third place

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4 Ak Bars Kazan 0 (2-0, 0-0, 2-0)

Magnitka quickly avenged last week’s 4-5 defeat against Ak Bars and made sure of third place in the Eastern Conference with a convincing victory over its old rival. The result sets up a playoff showdown against sixth-placed Salavat Yulaev, while Ak Bars will face Avangard in the first round.

The home team took control of the game midway through the first period when Viktor Antipin opened the scoring and Dennis Rasmussen doubled the lead soon afterwards. Iiro Pakarinen hit the post early in the middle frame, but Ak Bars came back into contention and the home team had to kill a 3-on-5 situation midway through the session.

It wasn’t until the final stanza that Metallurg wrapped up the win. Matt Ellison added to his assist on Antipin’s opener with a power play goal before Roman Lyubimov completed the scoring in the last minute. Artyom Zagidulin made 27 saves to secure his fourth shut-out of the season.

Gusev tops 80 points

Traktor Chelyabinsk 1 SKA St. Petersburg 3 (0-1, 1-1, 0-1)

Nikita Gusev became only the second player ever to reach 80 points in a KHL season. The SKA forward came into the game on 79 points and added a goal and an assist to finish with 81 (17+64) points for the season. Last week, Gusev smashed Alexander Radulov’s record of 61 assists in a season, which dated back to 2011.

Gusev’s first contribution came as Nail Yakupov opened the scoring with a power play goal midway through the first period. Then, after Nick Bailen tied the game for Traktor in the middle frame, the Russian international potted the game-winner just after the 30-minute mark. Alexander Barabanov’s empty-net effort completed the win.

SKA finishes the regular season with six successive victories as it prepares for a first-round playoff match-up against Spartak. Traktor came eighth in the Eastern Conference and goes to Avtomobilist at the start of the postseason.

Severstal ends the season with a win

Severstal Cherepovets 3 Spartak Moscow 0 (1-0, 1-0, 1-0)

Severstal finished its season on an encouraging note, blanking Spartak to record its third win in four games.

Photo: 22.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Severstal (Cherepovets) - Spartak (Moscow)

Spartak, looking to snap a four-game losing streak before it takes on SKA in the playoffs next week, fell behind after five minutes to a Bogdan Yakimov goal. The second period was one-sided, with Severstal topping the shot count 14-3. However, the home team had to wait until the 39th minute before extending its lead thanks to German Grachyov. Vadim Kudako added a third into the empty net as the visitor tried to force the pace by playing 6-on-4 during a late power play.

Severstal finishes the season with 51 points from 23 wins and takes 10th place in the Western Conference. Spartak’s sixth place puts the Red-and-Whites into the playoffs for the second successive season.

Big win for Avangard

Avangard Omsk 7 Sibir Novosibirsk 3 (4-1, 3-1, 0-1)

A convincing win at home to Sibir sets Avangard up for a playoff showdown with defending champion Ak Bars.

Photo: 22.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Avangard (Omsk) - Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)

Avangard came into the game knowing that a win would see it take fourth place and begin its playoff campaign with home ice advantage. That proved to be a powerful motivation for Bob Hartley’s team as the home team scored four in the first period. Kirill Semyonov and Denis Zernov opened a 2-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes before Nikita Mikhailis got Sibir on the board. The host was not greatly affected by allowing that goal, however, and Ilya Mikheyev and Mikhail Fisenko extended the lead to 4-1 at the first intermission.

There was more of the same in the middle frame. Semyonov got his second of the game, sandwiched between tallies from Viktor Stalberg and Sergei Shumakov as the host went 7-1 up before the midway phase. Maxim Kazakov got one back late in the second period and Alexander Sharov completed the scoring when he made it 3-7 early in the third.

Defeat can’t deny Vityaz a playoff place

Vityaz Moscow Region 1 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 5 (0-2, 1-1, 0-2)

Vityaz secured a place in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons – but this home defeat against Avtomobilist meant that fans in Podolsk were anxiously waiting for confirmation of CSKA’s win over Dinamo Riga.

With so much at stake, Vityaz could hardly have suffered a worse start to the game. Evgeny Chesalin gave Avto the lead in the fifth minute and Artyom Gareyev doubled that advantage midway through the first period. When the first intermission rolled around, many in the arena were anxiously checking on news from Moscow where the Latvians were looking to beat CSKA and force their way into the playoff zone.

Alexei Makeyev reduced the deficit midway through the second period, but Cheslain potted his second of the game to keep Avtomobilist in control at the second break. By then, though, news had come through that CSKA was beating Riga and the pressure on the home side was reduced. The third period saw Ilya Krikunov net a power play goal before Chesalin completed his hat-trick in the last minute. Avto’s 22-year-old goalie Leonid Fomin enjoyed a victorious KHL debut. Vityaz finishes eighth in the West and faces the challenge of halting CSKA’s winning streak in next week’s playoff action.

Playoff action comes to the Black Sea once again

HC Sochi 2 Slovan Bratislava 0 (0-0, 1-0, 1-0)

Sochi did what it had to do and defeated bottom club Slovan to take seventh place in the Western Conference and secure a playoff place. Konstantin Barulin’s shut-out backstopped his team’s win and ensured no last-minute nerves for the Black Sea team.

Slovan, limping to the end of a difficult season, was heavily short-benched once again. The visitor named just 17 skaters on its roster and had no recognized understudy goalie as youngster Michal Vojvoda made his second KHL start.

However, the league’s bottom club put up some solid resistance to frustrate a Sochi team that still needed a victory to rubber-stamp its playoff place. The host was always the more active team but it wasn’t until the 39th minute that Alexander Polunin finally broke the deadlock. Even then, the game was live until the last few seconds when Yury Alexandrov shot home an empty net goal to seal the victory. Sochi overtakes Spartak into sixth place; the reward is a playoff series against Lokomotiv.

Riga misses out on a playoff spot

CSKA Moscow 3 Dinamo Riga 0 (0-0, 2-0, 1-0)

Dinamo’s playoff hopes came to an end on the final day of the season with a defeat at CSKA. The Latvians knew that only a win would be good enough to break into the top eight if Vityaz suffered a defeat at home to Avtomobilist. Although the Eastern Conference leader duly obliged with a 5-1 scoreline in Podolsk, Riga could not stop the regular season champ from recording its 53rd victory in 62 games.

Photo: 22.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. CSKA (Moscow) - Dinamo (Riga)

Two goals in three second-period minutes decided the outcome of this game. Riga had shaded a tense first period, helped by two power play situations, but fell behind in the 26th minute to an Andrei Svetlakov goal. Shortly after, Linden Vey made it 2-0, leaving the visitor with a mountain to climb if it was to save its season.

With more than three minutes to play, and the score still at 0-2, Riga pulled goalie Timur Bilyalov in search of the goals that might save its season. However, the gamble did not pay off and Kirill Kaprizov fired into the empty net to wrap up the win. Ilya Sorokin made 26 saves to secure his 11th shut-out of the season.

Minsk signs off with a victory

Jokerit Helsinki 3 Dinamo Minsk 5 (1-2, 2-1, 0-2)

The two teams produced an entertaining end-of-season fixture, with Dinamo ending a difficult campaign on something of a high note.

The Belarusians recovered from the shock of a first minute goal from Jesper Jensen. Patrick Wiercioch tied the scores in the fourth minute and Alexei Tereshchenko gave the visitor the lead at the first intermission, with both goals coming on the power play. In the middle frame, Niklas Jensen made it 2-2 before Quinton Howden and ex-Minsk favorite Geoff Platt traded goals.

The third period saw Teemu Pulkkinen score against his fellow countrymen in the 49th minute and that proved to be the game-winner. Tereshchenko put his second of the night into an empty net to seal the victory for Dinamo.

Convincing win for Dynamo

Dynamo Moscow 4 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 1 (0-0, 3-1, 1-0)

An impressive Dynamo performance saw the Blue-and-Whites complete the regular season in some style before next week’s playoff series against Jokerit. The host was on top throughout and deserved its winning scoreline.

However, it took some time for home superiority to turn into goals. Daniil Tarasov broke the deadlock in the 25th minute and Dynamo went on to tighten the screws. Dmitry Kagarlitsky doubled the lead on the power play, Igor Makarov made it three in the 34th minute. A Robert Sabolic power play goal late in the middle frame gave Torpedo some hope, but there was no recovery.

Torpedo’s chances of a fightback took a big hit early in the third when Mikhail Smolin was ejected from the game for boarding. The power play did not accrue for Dynamo but a fourth goal arrived before the hooter when Evgeny Mozer fired into the empty net. Torpedo’s defeat keeps it in seventh in the East; a playoff against Barys awaits.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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