Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The defending champion, CSKA, became the first team this season to guarantee itself a place in the 2020 playoff. An emphatic 6-1 victory over HC Sochi opened a 28-point between first and ninth in the Western Conference; Sochi has just 13 games – potentially 26 more points – available before the end of the season. In the East, meanwhile, the race to the top couldn’t be tighter. Ak Bars and Avangard are tied on 68 points after today’s action in the Far East. Avangard won at Admiral before Ak Bars suffered a surprise loss at Kunlun. There were goals aplenty in Nizhny Novgorod, where Torpedo beat Dynamo 6-4, and a big fightback in Nizhnekamsk as Traktor rallied from 0-3 to win a shoot-out. Losses for Metallurg and Salavat Yulaev, meanwhile, mean that two former Gagarin Cup winners are still in danger of missing out in this year’s playoff as the Eastern Conference remains as tight as ever.

Fifth straight win for Sibir

Amur Khabarovsk 1 Sibir Novosibirsk 2 SO (0-1, 1-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Sibir made it five wins in a row as Nikolai Zavarukhin’s team hits a rich vein of form at just the right time in the race for a playoff spot. Earlier this week, Sibir enjoyed back-to-back wins in Beijing and today it went into the mini-pause for the All-Star Game with a second successive shoot-out success, this time in Khabarovsk.

The visitor made a lively start to the game and got its reward midway through the opening period when Danil Romantsev opened the scoring on the power play. However, Amur raised its game in the second and tied it up thanks to Kirill Rasskazov. That earned the home team a point that briefly lifted it back in front of Traktor at the foot of the table, but the shoot-out saw Mikael Ruohomaa give Sibir the verdict.

Avangard catches the leader

Admiral Vladivostok 1 Avangard Omsk 3 (0-2, 1-0, 0-1)

Avangard picked up its second victory in 24 hours at Admiral to draw level with Ak Bars at the top of the Eastern Conference table. Bob Hartley’s team made it four wins in a row – and seven from the last eight – as the Hawks look to wrap up the regular season in soaring form.

In Thursday’s game, Avangard fell behind in the first period. Lessons learned, the visitor jumped to a 2-0 lead this time out. Alexei Potapov opened the scoring, making it two goals from two days in Vladivostok, before Kirill Semyonov doubled the lead.

Admiral, looking for a win that could lift it into the playoff zone, pulled one back midway through the game when Martin Bakos scored on the power play. Bakos, too, was on target in yesterday’s game. However, there was no way back for the home team and Sergei Shumakov settled the outcome with another power play goal early in the third.

30 seconds sinks Kazan

Kunlun Red Star 3 Ak Bars Kazan 1 (0-1, 2-0, 1-0)

Two goals in 30 seconds late in the second period turned this game upside down and gave Red Star a vital victory in its push for a playoff place. The home team bounced back from two losses against Sibir last week thanks to a big goaltending performance from Jeremy Smith as Ak Bars once again struggled to turn shots into goals.

The visitor fired in 44 attempts at Smith, but only found the target once. The goal came after seven minutes, with Mikhail Glukhov shooting home on a 5-on-3 power play. Otherwise, the Dragons’ goalie frustrated the visiting offense. Among the stand-out moments for the American were his stoning of Dmitry Voronkov early in the second and a smart stop to spare Trevor Murphy’s blushes after the defenseman redirected a Stepan Sannikov feed towards his own net.

Murphy would have a scoring impact at the other end, though. He joined the rush to shoot home a Tyler Wong feed for the game-winner, just 30 seconds after Adam Cracknell tied the game on 35:38. In the third period, Ak Bars poured forward in search of a tying goal but found no way past Smith. Red Star managed just two shots at Timur Bilyalov’s net, the second of them coming with the last play of the game as Gilbert Brule fired into the now empty target to seal the win and give the Chinese club a four-point cushion over ninth-placed Admiral.

Barys holds on to defeat Metallurg again

Barys Nur-sultan 4 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 (0-0, 2-1, 2-2)

Barys defeated Metallurg for the third time this season, keeping in touch with the Eastern Conference leaders while its visitor continues to battle for a place in the top eight. Magnitka’s cause was hampered by the absence of captain Sergei Mozyakin due to illness. He will also miss the weekend’s All-Star action in Moscow after 11 consecutive appearances in the showcase event.

The first period was cautious, but that all changed after the intermission. Linus Videll opened the scoring when he completed a counterattack alongside Roman Starchenko and five minutes later Darren Dietz doubled the lead in emphatic fashion. Metallurg got one back late in the frame thanks to Andrej Nestrasil.

At the start of the third an uncharacteristic error from visiting goalie Vasily Koshechkin gifted Barys a third goal. Koshechkin lost sight of a Corban Knight shot and ended up ushering the puck into his own net. But even Starchenko added a fourth, Metallurg refused to give up. The visitor dragged it back to a one-goal game thanks to a second goal from Nestrasil and a Viktor Antipin strike three minutes from the end. But the visitor ran out of time before it could complete the recovery.

Golyshev’s solo effort beats Salavat

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 2 (0-0, 2-0, 2-2)

After crashing out of last year’s playoff against Salavat Yulaev, this fixture has added spice for Avtomobilist. When the teams met in December in Ufa, the Motormen revelled in a 2-0 victory; today there was ample determination to inflict another loss on Nikolai Tsulygin’s team.

After a sluggish first period, Denis Bodrov warmed things up at the start of the second with the opening goal. That forced Ufa to step up its effort on offense, but the visitor’s push had the opposite result from the one intended. The productive partnership between Georgy Belousov and Pavel Datsyuk delivered once again, with the Magic Man making it 2-0 midway through the game. At the other end, Avtomobilist displayed some impressively composed defense as waves of Ufa attacks crashed harmlessly in front of Jakub Kovar’s net.

However, the beginning of the third saw Salavat Yulaev come roaring back into the game. Pyotr Khokhryakov pulled a goal back and it wasn’t long before the visitor had a 5-on-3 power play. Avto dug deep, killed the penalty and went back on the attack once back at full strength … only to see another play head to the box. This time, Nikita Soshnikov converted the power play and the scores were level.

Anatoly Golyshev settled the outcome in the home team’s favor when he conjured a goal out of nothing with five minutes left. There seemed to be little on when he got the puck on his own blue line and tried to shrug off an opponent. However, persistence saw him drag play down the ice into a shooting position, from where he beat Juha Metsola to restore the home lead. Artyom Gareyev finished it off with an empty net goal.

Daugavins delivers OT winner

Severstal Cherepovets 1 Spartak Moscow 2 OT (0-0, 0-1, 1-0, 0-1)

Severstal could not add to its two-game winning streak, but its point from this overtime loss moved it level with HC Sochi for a share of ninth in the Western Conference. Spartak remains in fifth.

After a goalless opening session, the visitor moved ahead midway through the second thanks to a Robin Hanzl goal. He was assisted by two Latvian forwards, Martins Karsums and Kaspars Daugavins. However, Spartak’s goal was against the run of play; Hanzl’s effort was one of just four that the Red-and-Whites put on Dmitry Shugayev’s net in the middle frame.

Severstal continued to press and got its reward in the 53rd minute when Yegor Yakovlev tied the scores. However, there would be no winner in regulation and at the start of the extras Hanzl turned provider as Daugavins scored the winner.

Torpedo wins a thriller against Dynamo

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 6 Dynamo Moscow 4 (2-1, 2-2, 2-1)

Two goals apiece from Ty Rattie and Stanislav Bocharov gave Torpedo the verdict in a roller-coaster of a game against Dynamo. The win sees the home team strengthen its position in the playoff race, opening an eight-point gap over Sochi and Severstal just outside the top eight.

But Torpedo had to recover from a dreadful start. Dynamo was in front after 23 seconds thanks to the KHL’s leading scorer, Vadim Shipachyov. However, the home team did not buckle and was back on level terms in the 14th minute when Bocharov got his first of the game. A power play soon followed, and Rattie made it 2-1 to the host.

The goals kept coming in the middle stanza. Dmitrij Jaskin tied the scores, only for Artyom Alyayev to restore Torpedo’s lead within 90 seconds. Ilya Kruglov hauled the visitor level once again, but Bocharov’s second of the night saw his namesake Ivan withdrawn from the Dynamo net in favor of the vastly experienced Alexander Yeryomenko.

Dynamo levelled again early in the third thanks to Ivan Igumnov, but when Rattie’s second made it 5-4, the game was finally done. A late rally by the visitor was to no avail; Drew Shore completed the scoring into the empty net.

Traktor enjoys comeback victory

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 3 Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 SO (1-0, 2-0, 0-3, 0-0, 0-1)

Traktor battled back from 0-3 down to take this one to a shoot-out before Christian Thomas finished the job to give his team an unlikely victory. The success gives Traktor a bit of breathing space in front of Amur at the foot of the Eastern Conference.

It all started so well for Neftekhimik, with Ryan Murphy opening the scoring in the third minute, 11 seconds after the first penalty of the game. But the home team did not have it all its own way in the first period, having to kill almost a full two minutes of 3-on-5 play.

In the second, Jonas Enlund scored twice against one of his former clubs to put Neftekhimik in control. However, few saw what was coming in the third. Tomas Hyka gave Traktor hope with a 49th-minute goal, then belief when he struck again with four minutes left to play. Alexander Avtsin completed the great escape as Traktor’s dominance in the third was richly rewarded, and the game went to overtime.

Vityaz has too much for Minsk

Vityaz Moscow Region 5 Dinamo Minsk 1 (2-0, 2-0, 1-1)

Vityaz picked up another victory as it looks to tighten its grip on a playoff place, while Dinamo remains rooted to the foot of the Western Conference after another heavy loss.

Photo: 16.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - Dinamo (Minsk)

The home team has alternated wins and losses since Jan. 5 and continued that pattern here. First period goals from Pavel Varfolomeyev and Ivan Larichev put Vityaz in control, even though the Belarusians had twice as many shots and spent more time on the attack.

In the second period, Ville Lajunen extended the lead on the power play, a further goal was disallowed, and Pavel Chernov added a fourth just before the intermission. Danila Moiseyev made it five midway through the final stanza before Vyacheslav Gretsky, this year’s most unlikely All-Star, got his second assist of the season on Minsk’s consolation goal. The scorer, too, has a better-known namesake; Dinamo’s goal went to Evgeny Dadonov, the 27-year-old’s first in the KHL since 2014/15.

SKA stops Jensen’s streak

SKA St. Petersburg 4 Jokerit Helsinki 1 (0-0, 3-0, 1-1)

A strong second-period performance from SKA was enough to steer the Army Men towards victory in this Battle of the Baltic. Jokerit’s impressive recent form deserted the team in Petersburg and even Niklas Jensen saw his productive streak dry up after producing 17 (10+7) points in 11 games.

The first period was goalless, despite SKA’s dominance of the play. But the middle session saw the home team get its reward. Vasily Tokranov opened the scoring in the 24th minute, firing to the far corner from the left-hand circle. Two minutes later, Vladimir Tkachyov made it 2-0, squeezing the puck home from a tight angle. Then the same player took an Igor Ozhiganov pass into the zone, beat his defenseman and went through to score on Janis Kalnins.

There was some hope for Jokerit when Petri Kontiola pulled a goal back early in the third period. But time was always against the visitor and SKA had little difficulty seeing out the win. A late goal from Evgeny Ketov merely underlined the point.

Comfortable win for CSKA

CSKA Moscow 6 HC Sochi 1 (1-0, 0-0, 5-1)

CSKA went goal crazy in the third period to hand Sochi a heavy defeat and push the Black Sea club further away from the playoff places.

Photo: 16.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. CSKA (Moscow) - HC Sochi (Sochi)

Much of this game was quite tight, at least on the scoreboard. Sergei Tolchinsky gave CSKA an early lead, but the home team struggled to turn its control of the game into more goals. That all changed in the third period. First, Anton Slepyshev made it 2-0 in the 41st minute, effectively ending any questions about the eventual winner.

Then came a flurry of scoring around the midway point of the final frame. Konstantin Okulov added a third, a clutch of penalties disrupted proceedings and CSKA added two goals in a minute as Slepyshev and Nikita Nesterov found the target. Okulov got his second of the night to make it 6-0, but Andrei Altybarmakyan left a small blemish on the home team’s evening when he scored late on to rob Lars Johansson of a shut-out.

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