Andy Potts Andy Potts
exclusive for khl.ru
The final action of 2019 saw CSKA return to the top of the overall KHL table thanks to an overtime winner against Lokomotiv. Konstantin Okulov snapped a 3-3 tie to kickstart the New Year festivities in Moscow. Jokerit moved into the top four in the West with a 4-1 win over Vityaz while, at the foot of the table, Dinamo Riga overtook Dinamo Minsk after winning 2-0 in Belarus. There was little joy for the backmarker in the Eastern Conference with Traktor suffering a 5-1 loss at home to Avangard. Barys defeated Kunlun Red Star 2-1 to go third in the table.

Barys ends the year in third

Barys Nur-Sultan 2 Kunlun Red Star 1 (2-1, 0-0, 0-0)

Barys finished 2019 on a winning note to strengthen its grip on third place in the Eastern Conference with victory over Red Star.

The Kazakh team was rocked early in the game when Cory Kane put Red Star in front inside two minutes. But that ushered in a first period that was utterly dominated by the host. Penalty trouble plagued the Dragons before goals from Corban Knight and Dustin Boyd turned the game in the home team’s favor. The action was one-sided; Barys outshot its guest 22-2 in the opening frame.

After that, improved discipline from Kunlun ensured a more competitive spectacle. However, Gilbert Brule fired his team’s best chance wide of the goal and Hunter Shinkaruk was denied a first KHL goal by Eddie Pasquale as Barys held on for the win.

Zernov returns in Avangard win

Traktor Chelyabinsk 1 Avangard Omsk 5 (1-0, 0-3, 0-2)

Traktor’s recent upswing in form took another dent, but only after giving high-flying Avangard a fight in the early stages of its game in Chelyabinsk.

Photo: 30.12.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Traktor (Chelyabinsk) - Avangard (Omsk)

Yaroslav Kosov gave Traktor a sixth-minute lead on the power play – Andrew Calof produced a great assist on this one – as the Eastern Conference’s bottom club looked for its fourth win in five games against an opponent looking to close the gap at the top of the table. That lead endured until the midway stage before the visitor seized control of the game.

Semyon Koshelev tied the scores, Sergei Shumakov made it 2-1 a couple of minutes later and Slava Voynov added a third late in the middle stanza. That put the game firmly in Avangard’s grasp and the visitor completed the rout with further tallies from Kirill Semyonov and Valentin Pyanov in the third. No less important than the result was the return to action of forward Denis Zernov. He had been unable to appear for Bob Hartley’s team all season due to injury.

Okulov’s double lifts CSKA

CSKA Moscow 4 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 3 OT (1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 1-0)

CSKA returned to the top of the overall KHL table with victory over Lokomotiv in its final game of the year. The win moves the defending champion to 63 points, one better than Ak Bars and two better than SKA.

Photo: 30.12.19. KHL Championship 2019-2020. CSKA (Moscow) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

The home team had complete control in the first period, and Lokomotiv might have been relieved to escape to the locker room with only Konstantin Okulov’s 18th-minute goal on the scoreboard. CSKA had 17 shots to four as it pushed the Railwaymen back.

But the middle frame saw the visitor come into the contest. CSKA chances began to dry up, despite a Maxim Mamin goal midway through, and late in the session Nikolai Kovalenko halved the deficit to set up an intriguing third period.

Stephane Da Costa converted a power play chance against his former club to tie the game and, with eight minutes left, Alexander Svitov gave Loko the lead for the first time on the night. It looked like that might be enough to win it, but Jiri Sekac saved CSKA with 90 seconds to play and took the action to overtime.

The extras saw the Army Men snatch a win in the last minute. CSKA forced a turnover in center ice, Maxim Shalunov sent Okulov into the zone and he beat Alexander Lazushin to take his team to the top.

Riga moves off the foot of the table

Dinamo Minsk 0 Dinamo Riga 2 (0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

The Dinamo derby would determine which team would go into the New Year at the foot of the Western Conference as the two strugglers went head-to-head in Belarus. Both were in poor form; Riga winless in nine since an overtime win at Severstal on Nov. 26, Minsk defeated in its last 11. However, the home team had picked up a few points from taking games to overtime, and that moved it one point clear of the Latvians before Monday’s meeting.

For much of the first period, the home team had the edge. However, it was unable to seriously test Alexander Salak and got caught in the final seconds of the frame when Roberts Mamcics opened the scoring for Riga.

In the middle session, the Latvians had more of the play. However, Salak had to be at his best to deny Ryan Spooner as Minsk looked for a tying goal. The Czech goalie did not complete the game: in the 38th minute he was replaced by Janis Voris.

The youngster, making only his second appearance in the KHL, steered his team to the win. He kept the home team at bay until the end, while Carter Ashton potted a crucial second goal at the other end to give the Latvians the verdict and send Minsk back to the foot of the table.

Jokerit ends the year on a high

Jokerit Helsinki 4 Vityaz Moscow Region 1 (0-1, 3-0, 1-0)

Two goals from Petri Kontiola steered Jokerit to a convincing win as the old year drew to a close in Finland. Success over Vityaz lifts Lauri Marjamaki’s team into the top four in the West – but it took a fightback from the home team after falling behind in the first period.

The game’s first big incident saw Jokerit almost take the lead. Amid a scramble in front of the Vityaz net the puck rolled along the goal line before it was hacked clear. A video review followed and it appeared that the puck, stood on its end, was spinning on the line. The referees ultimately concluded that they could not be certain it had fully crossed the line and the visitor was reprieved.

Vityaz took advantage of that let-off with a goal made in Finland. Ville Lajunen’s assist set up Joonas Nattinen to make it 1-0 late in the first period.

For the first 10 minutes of the middle frame, Jokerit struggled to get back into it, but Brian O’Neill’s slap shot tied the scores at the midway stage. After that, the home team took control. Kontiola got his first, deflected off his leg, then made it 3-1 late in the stanza. Peter Regin extended that advantage further with a wrister to the top shelf as the Finns eased to victory.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
exclusive for khl.ru

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Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Barys (Nur-Sultan) Barys (Nur-Sultan)
Vityaz (Moscow Region) Vityaz (Moscow Region)
Dinamo (Minsk) Dinamo (Minsk)
Dinamo (Riga) Dinamo (Riga)
Jokerit (Helsinki) Jokerit (Helsinki)
Kunlun Red Star (Beijing) Kunlun Red Star (Beijing)
Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
CSKA (Moscow) CSKA (Moscow)
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