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Ak Bars snapped a three-game losing streak as Dmitry Kvartalnov again got the better of Lokomotiv. CSKA returned to the top of the Western Conference with the same 3-0 scoreline at home to Vityaz. Earlier in the day, Sibir lost a 2-0 lead but rallied to beat Kunlun Red Star in a shoot-out and Avangard thumped Neftekhimik 6-2. Torpedo had a memorable day with a 5-2 win over Dinamo Riga, and Sochi got past Jokerit in overtime.

Sibir edges home in playoff battle

Sibir Novosibirsk 3 Kunlun Red Star 2 SO (1-0, 1-0, 0-2, 0-0, 1-0)

Red Star rallied from 0-2 in the game, then again in the shoot-out, but still left Novosibirsk on the losing side. The host picked up a valuable victory in the Eastern Conference playoff race by the narrowest of margins.

In the first two periods Sibir got in front thanks to a pair of power play goals. Evgeny Chesalin converted his team’s first chance just six seconds after the Dragons’ new recruit, Hunter Shinkaruk, took a holding minor. The visitor missed a penalty shot late in the opening frame when Harri Sateri denied Andrew Miller, and Sibir doubled its lead late in the second through Juuso Puustinen.

But Kunlun recovered in the third. Devante Smith-Pelly potted his third goal in five games to make it 1-2 and a short-handed breakout from Brandon Yip tied the game. In overtime, Ethan Werek might have won it for the visitor, while Puustinen was denied by a last-gasp clearance from Trevor Murphy.

The shoot-out saw Sibir replace starting goalie Sateri with Alexei Krasikov. The home again went up 2-0 but Red Star responded to tie the series before Mikael Ruohomaa settled the outcome.

Hawks fly high in Nizhnekamsk

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2 Avangard Omsk 6 (1-2, 0-2, 1-2)

Avangard recovered from an early shock to post a big win at Neftekhimik and keep up the pressure on Ak Bars at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Photo: 28.12.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk) - Avangard (Omsk)

The home team, which snapped a four-game losing streak with Wednesday’s victory in the Tatarstan derby, made a great start here thanks to Matt White’s second-minute goal. However, the lead was shortlived and Valentin Pyanov tied the scores on 2:51. Avangard continued to rattle in the shots in the opening frame but had to wait until its first power play of the game before going ahead on 18 minutes. Semyon Koshelev got the goal.

Two goals in the middle of the second period took the game away from the home team. Kirill Semyonov and Sergei Shirokov found the target, and not even the loss of Alexei Emelin late in the session hampered the visitor’s progress. The defenseman was ejected from the game for interference, but Avangard killed off the major penalty and promptly added fifth goal at the other end through Semyonov.

Jacob Berglund got a consolation effort for Neftekhimik with 10 minutes to play, but the final word went to the visitor when Sergei Shumakov made it 6-2.

Bocharov blasts a hat-trick, Varnakov ties with his dad

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 5 Dinamo Riga 2 (2-2, 3-0, 0-0)

Dinamo’s unhappy run continues: the Latvians slumped to a ninth successive loss after folding in the second period at Torpedo. Three goals early in the middle frame decided the outcome of this game after the teams played out a competitive opening session.

The game ultimately belonged to home forward Stanislav Bocharov, who became the first Torpedo players to score a hat-trick for five years. He wasn’t quite as quick as his immediate predecessor – Wojtek Wolski needed just 106 seconds to grab three goals against Sibir back in Oct. 2014 – but he started early to open the scoring after 83 seconds.

Riga replied to that with goals from Alexander Protapovich and Oskars Batnja to lead the game midway through the first period, but Bocharov’s second of the night took the teams to the intermission at 2-2.

At the start of the second period, Bocharov turned provider with an assist as Mikhail Varnakov made it 3-2. That was Varnakov’s 228th goal in Russian hockey, matching his father – also called Mikhail – in a career largely spent with Torpedo. Shortly after, Bocharov completed his hat-trick and Andrei Belevich made it 5-2 in the 27th minute to put the game beyond Riga.

Sklenicka’s strike can’t save Jokerit

HC Sochi 4 Jokerit Helsinki 3 OT (1-0, 1-3, 1-0, 1-0)

Jokerit’s new Czech defenseman, David Sklenicka, potted his first goal in the KHL but it wasn’t enough to save his team from an overtime loss in Sochi.

The 23-year-old, who arrived from Laval Rockets earlier this month, struck late in the second period to give his team a 3-2 lead but the Finns could not hold on. Simon Bertilsson tied it up early in the third, firing home his first goal in the league through a crowd of players in front of Antti Niemi’s net.

The winner came early in overtime. Sean Collins drew all the attention of the Jokerit players and found a pass to Vyacheslav Leshchenko who had a straightforward task to slot the puck into the unguarded side of the net.

Earlier in the game, Sergei Shmelyov gave Sochi a first-period lead, but the visitor responded with two quick goals from Jesse Joensuu and Brian O’Neill. Denis Mosalyov tied it up midway through the second period.

CSKA goes back on top

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

The Army Men bounced back from a derby defeat against Dynamo to blank Vityaz and return to the top of the Eastern Conference. Vityaz, meanwhile, returned to action after almost a week off – and faced the same CSKA team that won 6-1 in Podolsk on Dec. 22.

Photo: 28.12.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. CSKA (Moscow) - Vityaz (Moscow Region)

This game was closer, at least for a while. There was little to choose between the teams in a first period of few chances and no goals. Indeed, it wasn’t until late in the second that CSKA got in front thanks to a short-handed effort from Sergei Kalinin.

Vityaz got a chance to recover in the third when Anton Slepyshev was removed from the game for slashing. However, CSKA killed that major and promptly doubled its lead when back to full strength. Kirill Kaprizov scored the second, despite a challenge for offside from the visitor’s bench. A minute later, Nikita Nesterov added a power play goal to seal the victory. Lars Johansson stopped 30 shots for his shut-out.

Kvartalnov frustrates former club again

Ak Bars Kazan 3 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 0 (1-0, 2-0, 0-0)

Despite a run of three straight losses, Ak Bars remained on top of the KHL table – albeit level on points with SKA ahead of this game. Today’s match-up, meanwhile, was a big one for head coach Dmitry Kvartalnov as he welcomed former club Lokomotiv to Kazan for the first time. Earlier in the season, Kvartalnov had blanked his old employer 4-0 in Yaroslavl; another shut-out win today maintained his new charges place at the top.

The first period was all Ak Bars: 12-4 on the shot count, a further 12 blocked shots by Lokomotiv and general domination of the play from the men in green. However, there was just one goal: Nikita Lyamkin firing home from the blue line midway through the session.

In the second, though, Loko came out and dominated the play. But the visitor could not find a way onto the scoresheet and, despite limiting Ak Bars to just three shots on goal, allowed another two efforts into its own net. Oleg Li and Mikhail Glukhov scored within a minute of each other; Mike Pelino replaced Ilya Konovalov with back-up goalie Alexander Lazushin.

Lazushin prevented any further damage, but Loko was unable to get back into the game. The visitor was on top in the third period, but could not beat Timur Bilyalov. The home goalie made 29 saves in his seventh shut-out of the campaign.

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Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Vityaz (Moscow Region) Vityaz (Moscow Region)
Dinamo (Riga) Dinamo (Riga)
Jokerit (Helsinki) Jokerit (Helsinki)
Kunlun Red Star (Beijing) Kunlun Red Star (Beijing)
Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk) Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)
Sibir (Novosibirsk Region) Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)
HC Sochi (Sochi) HC Sochi (Sochi)
Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod)
CSKA (Moscow) CSKA (Moscow)
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