Alexander Gorshkov scored twice to settle the latest edition of the Far East derby – but both his goals enjoyed an element of good fortune.
The Amur forward opened the scoring late in the second period with a power play goal that deflected off his leg. Then, five minutes into the final stanza he got his seconds when his shot was blocked by Alexander Trushkov in the home net only for the puck to ricochet into defenseman Alexander Ugolnikov and bounce into the net.
At the other end, Marek Langhamer kept the Sailors at bay as Amur recorded a fifth successive victory. The run has lifted the Tigers from the foot of the table onto the fringes of the race for a playoff place, albeit six points adrift of a spot in the top eight.
Barys leapfrogged Avtomobilist into third place in the East after defeating its closest rival and ending a three-game losing streak. Two goals from Roman Starchenko led the way for the home team.
The Kazakhs made a fast start and opened the scoring inside three minutes through Kirill Panyukov. However, Pavel Datsyuk was on hand to drag Avtomobilist back into contention: the veteran forward collected the puck in his own zone and took it all the way down the ice before setting up Artyom Gareyev for the tying goal.
Then came Starchenko. Two goals either side of the first intermission saw him put Barys in a commanding position. After that, the home team was not seriously troubled. Nikita Mikhailis extended the lead midway through the frame and Nigel Dawes could only add a consolation effort against his former club.
There was no shortage of excitement as Magnitogorsk staged its last game of the year against in-form Dynamo. The teams traded eight goals in regulation before the home team secured a shoot-out verdict that snapped the visitor’s five-game winning run.
But Dynamo turned the game around completely. Andre Petersson reduced the deficit late in the second period before Dmitry Moiseyev and Vadim Shipachyov put the visitor ahead midway through the third. Late in the game, all the Muscovites needed was to run down the clock. Instead, Michal Cajkovsky took a needless cross-checking penalty, Metallurg set up a 6-on-4 scenario and Filippi snatched a dramatic tying goal seven seconds before the hooter.
Vladimir Krikunov was furious on the visiting bench and his mood was not enhanced when his team was unable to score in overtime, nor beat Vasily Koshechkin in the shoot-out. Eric O’Dell and Andrei Loktionov found the target for the host to claim the verdict and secure a top eight position going into the New Year.
The contrast between this game and the one in Magnitogorsk could hardly have been greater. While fans in Urals enjoyed a goal feast, there were slim pickings beside the Black Sea. The team mustered just 20 shots apiece in a cautious game, but home goalie Ilya Proskuryakov emerged as the key player.
It wasn’t just the former CSKA man’s shut-out; he also picked up an assist on Sergei Shmelyov’s overtime winner. Proskuryakov made the save, the puck went to Shmelyov and the forward went the length of the ice to score the only goal of the evening.
It was the goalie’s first shut-out for Sochi; the host also snapped Spartak’s five-game winning streak and kept itself interested in the race for a playoff spot. The Leopards are currently ninth, six points behind Vityaz.
Severstal has been an awkward customer for SKA this season, taking four points from four games with the Petersburg powerhouse. And this meeting ended in victory for Andrei Razin’s team thanks to a fine overtime goal from Igor Geraskin.
The young forward showed fantastic pace to burn past Dmitry Kagarlitsky on his way to goal, then had the technique to put Magnus Hellberg on the floor before slotting the puck into the net. Cue joyous scenes among a Cherepovets crowd that has witnessed some tough times this season, but which now goes into 2020 buoyed by back-to-back wins.
SKA, meanwhile, missed the chance to return to the top of the Western Conference. Andrei Alexeyev’s early goal gave the Steelmen a great start, but Artyom Zub tied it up late in the first period. When SKA went in front on an Andrei Kuzmenko goal midway through the game, it seemed likely that the Army Men would go on and win it. Severstal, however, kept trying to take the game to the opposition and was rewarded with a goal for Vladislav Kodola late in the second period.
Both teams had chances to settle it in the third, with SKA raising the tempo and forcing 17 saves from Vladislav Podyapolsky. But it went to the extras, and Geraskin got a memorable winner.