Jokerit continued its run of games against teams chasing a playoff place in the East with a third victory in four days. The result also takes the Finns to 71 points from 52 games, guaranteeing a playoff place for Lauri Marjamaki’s team.
Neftekhimik, currently 10th in the East, came into the game knowing that it needed a win to keep pace with the top eight in that section. And the visitor made a flying start, opening the scoring in the second minute thank to Matt White. However, Jokerit responded with Aleksi Halme tying the scores on five minutes and Petri Kontiola beat Alexander Sharychenkov in the 13th. That effort, one that the visiting goalie might have dealt with better, brought about a change of goaltender. Konstantin Barulin came in to replace Sharychenkov.
Neftekhimik tied the game late in the first period after a turnover on the blue line. Jacob Berglund raced away to score a breakaway goal and make it 2-2. The second period began with Jokerit stepping up the pressure on the visitor and Niklas Jensen made it 3-2 after five minutes of the session. That proved to be the winning goal, despite the visitor’s efforts to force an equalizer during the rest of the game.
Avangard overpowered Metallurg to book its place in the playoffs, but a heavy loss leaves Magnitka looking anxiously over its shoulder at the chasing pack in the Eastern Conference. The Steelmen remain in eighth place, but their lead over Admiral is down to three points and the Sailors have a game in hand.
The host knew that victory in regulation would secure a playoff place and went out to secure that as quickly as possible. Two goals in the first 10 minutes from Artyom Manukyan and Sergei Shumakov set the tone as Avangard looked to extend its six-game winning streak. Semyon Koshelev extended the lead in the second period before Metallurg got on the scoresheet midway through the game thanks to Yegor Yakovlev.
CSKA assured itself of top spot in the Tarasov Division after a second successive shut-out victory. After Friday’s 3-0 verdict at Lokomotiv, the Army Men produced the same scoreline to see off Sibir on home ice and stretch their winning run to five games.
The game was played at CSKA’s old home on Leningradsky Prospekt, a one-off return to a venerable venue. Sibir’s last road win at CSKA was on this ice way back in 2010 and, inspired by the surroundings, the visitor was more than competitive in the first period. However, the opening goal went to CSKA late in the frame when Kirill Kaprizov set up Anton Slepyshev on 19:38. The two forwards extended their productive runs to 10 games each.
There was no scoring in the second period and the third period began with both teams knowing that the next goal would be crucial. It went to the host, with Mikhail Grigorenko making it 2-0 in the 48th minute. For good measure, the Army Men struck again a minute later with Kaprizov scoring and Slepyshev getting an assist.
Torpedo came close to staging another big fightback but fell just short in its visit to SKA. The visitor looked down and out at 1-4 with seven minutes remaining but scored twice in the closing moments to make for a tight finish.
That seemed unlikely as SKA moved into a 3-0 lead. The opening goal brought more success for the Army youngsters. Vasily Podkolzin got the assist as Ivan Morozov made it 1-0 in the ninth minute. Then Morozov combined with Kirill Marchenko to create the second of the night for Andrei Kuzmenko on the power play early in the second.
Then came a flurry of three goals in 60 seconds. Nail Yakupov extended SKA’s lead before Anton Shenfeld got one back for Torpedo. However, home team restored its three-goal advantage when Kuzmenko’s pass from behind the net was converted by Igor Ozhiganov four seconds before the intermission.
But if the host thought that was job done, it overlooked Torpedo’s determination to fight to the last. Andrei Belevich led an odd-man rush and finished it off himself in the 54th minute and a late power play enabled Denis Barantsev to score in a 6-on-4 format and make for an anxious 63 seconds before SKA could confirm the win.