Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The Moscow derby saw Dynamo win 4-0 at Spartak to keep the Red-and-Whites waiting for confirmation of their playoff place. The big game in the East was much closer, with Avangard rallying from 1-4 before losing out by the odd goal in seven against Chernyshev Division rival Barys. That enabled Ak Bars to extend its lead in the conference with a 2-0 victory over rock-bottom Dinamo Riga. There were 5-0 victories for Lokomotiv and Torpedo in the race to secure a playoff place in the West, but Vityaz suffered a 4-5 loss at Sochi as the Leopards kept their hopes alive. Avtomobilist added to Metallurg’s worries with Brooks Macek’s late winner in Magnitogorsk, while Sibir got back on the goal trail with a 3-2 success at home to Dinamo Minsk.

Romantsev at the double to sink Minsk

Sibir Novosibirsk 3 Dinamo Minsk 2 (0-0, 3-1, 0-1)

Two goals from Danil Romantsev lifted Sibir past Dinamo as the Siberians began their latest home stand with a narrow victory. The home team had struggled for goals of late, scoring just once in its previous two games, and the opening stages of this game showed few signs of changing that script. Neither team created much of note in the first period, although former Sibir man Shane Prince went close on a power play late in the frame.

In the second session, though, Sibir and Romantsev demonstrated how the power play should be done. After Yegor Milovzorov put the home team ahead, Dinamo’s discipline wavered. Midway through the period, Roman Dostanko sat for tripping and Romantsev converted the PP. Then Dostanko took another call and was joined in the box by Francis Pare. Sibir had a 5-on-3 chance and, once again, Romantsev delivered.

That wasn’t quite the end of the story, though. Dinamo did its best to get back into the game. Pavel Denisov reduced the deficit seconds before the intermission, then Ivan Drozdov made it a one-goal game with 11 minutes to play. However, Harri Sateri kept the Belarusians at bay for the remainder of the game as Sibir moves closer to confirming its playoff place.

Klinkhammer’s penalty hurts Avangard

Barys Nur-Sultan 4 Avangard Omsk 3 (2-0, 2-3, 0-0)

The big game in the Eastern Conference saw the Chernyshev Division’s top two going head-to-head in Kazakhstan. Avangard was hoping to close on conference leader Ak Bars, while Barys was hoping for a third win in four games against Bob Hartley’s team to close the gap in the division.

In tribute to a time-worn soccer cliché, this proved to be a game of two halves. In the first half-hour, Barys was well on top. A solid start for the home team was turned into a successful one when Rob Klinkhammer was removed from the game for boarding. During the major penalty, Barys scored twice. Dmitry Gurkov and Kirill Panyukov found the net to put Avangard in trouble.

Early in the second, Alexei Maklyukov made it 3-0, and the 30th minute saw the teams trade quickfire goals. Avangard got on the scoreboard at last when 23-year-old Semyon Ruchkin potted his second goal of the season. However, Barys replied 24 seconds later through Pavel Akolzin to restore that three-goal cushion.

A comfortable position became decidedly nervous before the second intermission, however. Barys ran into penalty trouble, playing 3-on-5 for a few seconds before Sergei Shumakov scored after Maklyukov’s return to the game. Shumakov had earlier seen a goal whistled off for interference; his relief this time was clearly visible. Two minutes later, Kirill Semyonov made it 3-4 and the third period was poised to bring a grandstand finish.

Avangard continued to press, dominating much of the play and firing in 16 shots at Eddie Pasquale in the home net. However, the Hawks could not find a way past the goalie. Barys, meanwhile, came close to extending its lead: Linus Videll saw a good chance go begging, Curtis Valk had a goal disallowed in similar circumstances to Shumakov.

Late strike adds to Metallurg’s woes

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 (1-1, 1-1, 0-1)

A KHL playoff without Metallurg should be unthinkable. The two-time Gagarin Cup winner has never failed to make post season since the league was founded. But a run of five losses in six games leaves Ilya Vorobyov’s team precariously perched in eighth, looking anxiously at Admiral’s efforts to close to the gap rather than eying more comfortable positions further up the table.

Photo: 01.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg)

Saturday’s defeat at home to Avto was more frustrating than most. Twice, Magnitka led, only for the Motormen to peg the host back. Then a late Brooks Macek goal sent the points to Yekaterinburg as the pressure on Metallurg increases.

The opening goal came in the eighth minute, a somewhat scruffy affair. Bogdan Potekhin’s shot got caught up in a scrimmage on the crease and the puck bounced off a defenseman and into the net. In response, Pavel Datsyuk chased down his own shot after a fine save from Vasily Demchenko, wrestled the puck away from Eric O’Dell and saw Anatoly Golyshev feed Alexei Vasilevsky for the tying goal.

Early in the second, Metallurg was up once again. Dennis Rasmussen fired home just as an Avto penalty was coming to an end. However, that lead was cancelled out when Maxim Berezin’s shot from the blue line found Peter Holland on his own on the slot to tie the scores. Then, with less than two minutes on the clock, Avtomobilist snaffled the win. Avtomobilist broke, Macek took the puck into the danger zone and tried his luck. A deflection off Artyom Manulin wrong-footed Demchenko and the visitor had the decisive goal.

Torpedo sinks Severstal

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 5 Severstal Cherepovets 0 (1-0, 3-0, 1-0)

Torpedo ended a run of four defeats with a decisive victory over Severstal, going a long way towards easing any jitters about securing a playoff place as the regular season heads into its final stages.

There wasn’t much to choose between the teams in the first period, with Severstal looking for a win that would keep its own playoff prospects alive. However, a Denis Barantsev goal ensured that the host turned around with a small advantage. The second period proved decisive. Barantsev was on the scoresheet again, in between efforts from Andrei Belevich and Damir Zhafyarov as three goals in eight minutes put Torpedo in complete control of the game.

With the outcome settled, Torpedo added one more goal in the third period through Kirill Urakov’s late strike. Anders Lindbak collected his second shut-out of his KHL career.

Top too strong for bottom

Ak Bars Kazan 2 Dinamo Riga 0 (1-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Eastern Conference leader Ak Bars subdued a lively start from the KHL’s basement team, Dinamo Riga, before easing to a 2-0 victory and extending its lead over Avangard.

The visitor belied its lowly position to pile on the early pressure but waves of Latvian offense broke harmlessly against the home defense and Ak Bars kept the score goalless. Gradually, the host began to create more danger in front of visiting goalie Alexander Salak and Ak Bars got in front midway through the frame. Artyom Galimov was the scoring, getting the finishing touch on a Mikael Wikstrand shot to realize the first home power play of the game.

The game was littered with hard hits and confrontations between the players – an incident late in the first period saw Dmitry Voronkov and Carter Ashton come to blows – but goals were harder to come by. It wasn’t until the third period that Danis Zaripov got the second goal that put the game beyond Dinamo’s reach. The Latvians suffered a ninth successive loss, Ak Bars recorded its sixth straight victory.

Vityaz lets its lead slip

HC Sochi 5 Vityaz Moscow Region 4 (0-2, 4-2, 1-0)

A wild game ended with Sochi securing a much-needed victory and moving to within six points of a playoff spot. Vityaz, meanwhile, was left to rue an afternoon that started with so much promise but ended on the wrong end of a high-scoring loss.

The first period saw the visitor make a lively start and Vityaz got its reward with goals from Quinton Howden and Alexander Semin. At that point, it looked like the team from Podolsk was poised to establish a 10-point gap over ninth-placed Sochi and build a decisive lead in the race for the playoffs.

Even when Sochi got into the game at the start of the second, Vityaz found answers. Andrei Altybarmakyan’s goal was matched by Semin’s second, Nikita Tochitsky briefly made it 2-3 before Joonas Nattinen potted a fourth in the 28th minute. But then the home team got on top of the game. Tochitsky struck again before Dmitry Arkhipov tied the scores seconds before the intermission and a tense third period was in prospect.

After so many goals in the first two sessions, the third produced just one more. But when Malte Stromwall converted a power play in the 43rd minute he gave Sochi the lead for the first time. And the Leopards held on to that advantage until the end to take the points.

Da Costa’s double gets Loko on track

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 5 Jokerit Helsinki 0 (2-0, 1-0, 2-0)

Loko scored twice in the first four minutes to take immediate control of this game, and Jokerit was left unable to recover as a four-game winning streak came crashing down.

Nikolai Kovalenko opened the scoring on 2:06, doing it all himself to get to the slot and shoot past Janis Kalnins. Ninety seconds later, Vladimir Tkachyov took play back to the danger zone and served up a dish for Stephane Da Costa to double the lead.

The French forward was on the mark again early in the second, firing home Denis Alexeyev’s pass to convert Loko’s first power play of the game. Jokerit, meanwhile, struggled to create chances. After 40 minutes, it had just eight shots on target, and one more from Niklas Jensen that dinged the piping.

The third stanza saw a bit more offensive intent from the visitor, but any hopes of saving the game disappeared when Jesse Joensuu received his marching orders late in the final frame. Jakub Nakladal and Staffan Kronwall scored on the power play to give the final scoreline a convincing look and steer Lokomotiv closer to securing its playoff place.

Dynamo keeps Spartak waiting

Spartak Moscow 0 Dynamo Moscow 4 (0-2, 0-2, 0-0)

Spartak went into Saturday’s Moscow derby looking for a win that would clinch its playoff place. But Oleg Znarok’s former club, Dynamo, had other ideas, and took a convincing verdict to tighten its grip on third place in the West.

Photo: 01.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Spartak (Moscow) - Dynamo (Moscow)

The visitor spent much of the first period on the penalty kill but kept Spartak at bay and took its chances when they came at the other end. Miks Indrasis opened the scoring in the seventh minute off a Dmitrij Jaskin feed, then the first Blue-and-White power play of the afternoon saw Ivan Igumnov extend the advantage.

The second period followed a similar patter, with Spartak having the better of the play while Dynamo took its opportunities and Ivan Bocharov continued to thwart the home team. Jaskin and Indrasis reversed their first-period roles to put the Czech international on the scoresheet once again, then Vyacheslav Kulyomin made it 4-0. At the other end, Dynamo’s defensive game impressed throughout: Ivan Bocharov made 33 saves, his team-mates blocked a further 20 efforts as Spartak failed to score.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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