In the East, Sochi’s overtime loss at Vityaz hurt its chances of sneaking into the playoffs. However, Torpedo’s defeat at CSKA means the Black Sea team gained a little ground on the top eight in the West. SKA beat Amur 3-2, Jokerit edged Traktor by the same scoreline and the clash of the basement duo saw Dinamo Minsk edge Dinamo Riga 2-1 in Latvia.
Kunlun Red Star snapped a four-game skid with a vital win in Novosibirsk. The 3-0 success against Sibir denied the home team a chance of securing its playoff place today and boosted the Dragons’ prospects of making the top eight for only the second time in their history.
Goalie Simon Hrubec played a key role, making 28 saves to record his second shut-out in the KHL. Meanwhile, all the scoring came in the second period. Tyler Wong broke the deadlock early in the frame when he stole the puck in center ice and exchanged passes with Spencer Foo before firing home his 15th of the season. Team captain Brandon Yip joined his team-mate on 15 goals late in the session, tucking away the rebound from an Andrew Miller shot after a move that turned defense into attack for the visitor.
Barely a minute later, Kunlun had a three-goal lead. Ethan Werek chased the puck into the corner and he got his reward when Devante Smith-Pelly collected his pass and fired a shot that was deflected home off a Sibir skate.
The Kazakh internationals on the Barys roster bounced back swiftly from the disappointment of defeat in Olympic qualification on Sunday, winning 4-2 at Avtomobilist to open a five-gap as the pair battle for third place in the East.
The first period was goalless, but Barys went ahead early in the second through Nikita Mikhailis. He enjoyed an element of fortune; emerging from behind the net, he slung the puck into the danger zone and saw a deflection off Vladimir Galkin steer it into the net.
Avto responded by fighting back and taking the lead. Alexei Vasilevsky’s shot cannoned back off the boards for Evgeny Mozer to tie the game, then another Vasilevsky attempt was converted by Peter Holland on the slot. Nigel Dawes, who played alongside many of today’s Barys team with Kazakhstan over the weekend, got an assist on that goal.
The visitor tied it up late in the middle frame through Iiro Pakarinen and went on to win it in the third. Dustin Boyd struck on the power play in the 42nd minute and Roman Starchenko completed the scoring, again on the PP.
Goalie Juha Metsola posted his 11th shut-out for Salavat Yulaev – matching the club record established by Erik Ersberg in two seasons from 2010 to 2012. The Finn’s 21 saves also backstopped a victory that moves Ufa closer to confirming its playoff place, while Admiral faces a battle to get into the top eight before the end of the season.
The second period saw Ufa’s offense continue to dominate. Linus Omark hit the piping, Teemu Hartikainen was twice denied by Juho Olkinuora. However, Denis Vikharev and Markus Ljungh went close at the other end. However, the contest was decided when two quick penalties reduced Admiral to just three skaters. Hartikainen scored during that power play, then a few minutes later he struck again following a two-on-one rush with Alexander Kadeikin.
The result leaves Admiral four points adrift of the playoff places, with seven games left. Salavat Yulaev has a nine-point cushion over the chasing pack.
Neftekhimik climbed to ninth place with a hard-fought victory over Lokomotiv. Both teams needed the points to boost their playoff campaigns; the host eager to close on the top eight in the East while the visitor looked to secure its position in the West.
Everything started well for Neftekhimik and the home team was two goals up inside eight minutes. Marat Khairullin and Ryan Murphy were on target. However, the Railwaymen responded with two goals in barely a minute, scored by Stephane Da Costa and Vladimir Tkachyov.
After a free-scoring opening frame, the second period produced just one goal. Ildar Shiksatdarov struck midway through the game to restore Neftekhimik’s advantage. And it went to 4-2 when Joonas Enlund potted a short-handed tally midway through the third.
Lokomotiv kept battling and a penalty on Evgeny Ryasensky late in the game encouraged the visitor to gamble on a 6-on-4 set-up. It paid off, inasmuch as Anton Lander managed to get a goal back. However, it wasn’t enough to save the game.
Oleg Znarok and Ilya Vorobyov have plenty of connections from their coaching careers and worked together on the national team. Today though, Znarok’s victory over his old colleague heightened the pressure on Metallurg while securing Spartak’s place in the playoffs.
Magnitka, eighth in the East, needs the points: more so after news came through of Red Star’s win earlier in the day. The visitor began the game with greater offensive intent and had the better of the scoreless first period. And that pressure turned into goals early in the second. Bogdan Potekhin opened the scoring moments into the middle frame, Andrej Nestrasil doubled the lead midway through.
Spartak, though, wasted little time in starting its fightback. Robin Hanzl pulled one back in the second, then three unanswered goals in the third secured the win that punches the Red-and-Whites’ ticket to post season. Two goals in the 49th minute saw Patrik Hersley tie the scores before Kaspars Daugavins struck on the power play to give the home team the lead. Then, in the last minute, Hanzl put his second of the night into an empty net to seal the win for Spartak.
Avangard closed the gap at the top of the Eastern Conference to just three points after edging a shoot-out verdict against leader Ak Bars. Bob Hartley’s team kept its hopes of claiming first place in the East alive, but a late goal from Ak Bars denied the Hawks victory in regulation here.
Avangard made a fast start to this game and opened the scoring in the third minute. Valentin Pyanov got the goal, battling his way into position on the slot to redirect a Slava Voynov shot into the net. The Ak Bars bench appealed for goalie interference and duly lost its time out when the video review backed the on-ice decision to award the goal.
However, there was no further scoring until the last minute, with home goalie Emil Garipov stopping 31 attempts from the visitor before he was beaten on 59:47. The visitor had already deployed a sixth skater, and the extra man paid off when Justin Azevedo fired in a pass from the boards for Stanislav Galiyev to score at the back door and take the game into overtime.
The extras could not produce a winner, but Avangard had the edge in the shoot-out. Taylor Beck converted two attempts, Azevedo potted just one in response and the Hawks took the verdict by the tightest of margins. The point for Ak Bars ensures that it will top the Kharlamov division and, at worst, finish no lower than second in the East.
Vityaz took the verdict as Sochi missed the chance to close on the play-off places. The visitor, currently in ninth, picked up one point to close the gap to eighth-placed Torpedo, but might have made further in-roads if it had held onto the lead it gained in the second period.
The visitor took the initiative in the early stages of the game, spending more time on the attack and outshooting Vityaz 14-9 in the first period. The second stanza saw Vityaz fire in far more shots, but at the other end Denis Mosalyov grabbed a short-handed goal to give Sochi the lead.
The Army Men continued their march towards the regular season title with another victory. Torpedo, meanwhile, is down in eighth, seeking to preserve a five-point advantage over HC Sochi.
Anton Slepyshev’s productive streak continued as well, with the forward opening the scoring in the 16th minute and making it 14 games among the points. Slepyshev has picked up at least one point in every game he has played this year, having last failed to score on Dec. 30.
Slepyshev’s goal was cancelled out by Ty Rattie midway through the second, but CSKA regained the lead on a power play goal by Sergei Tolchinsky. The same player struck again late in the middle frame to extend the home lead. Torpedo’s efforts to get back into the game were halted when Alexei Marchenko put a short-handed goal into an empty net late in the third.
SKA kept up the pressure on CSKA in the battle to top the regular season table. However, the Petersburg team is still five points adrift of its Moscow rivals with games running out as the season moves into the final straight.
And the Army Men had trouble finishing off a resilient Amur team. The Tigers’ recent form belies its position towards the foot of the Eastern Conference and the visitor gave SKA plenty to think about over the course of this game. Amur took the lead late in the first period when Ondrej Vitasek spotted a screen going up in front of Alexander Samonov and thumped home Kirill Rasskazov’s pass.
That advantage was short-lived, though. A penalty on Denis Golubev late in the first saw SKA start the second on the power play. Nail Yakupov surged down the wing to set up Alexander Barabanov, and his finish from a tight angle tied the game. Then a Vasily Tokranov interception enabled the defenseman to advance and fire home for 2-1.
Amur wasn’t done. The visitor kept battling and got a reward with five minutes to play when Golubev put away a Hynek Zohorna feed from behind the net to tie the scores.
However, the Tigers could not take the game to overtime. With barely three minutes to play Evgeny Ketov found the net on the wraparound to give SKA a hard-fought victory.
On the other side of the Gulf of Finland, the game between Jokerit and Traktor played out in a manner similar to the SKA-Amur clash. Once again, a strong team from the West faced a struggler in the East – and once again the visitor belied its status to give a good account of itself in a narrow loss.
Traktor led twice against Jokerit, and only succumbed to goals in the final 10 minutes as the Finns moved two points clear of Dynamo in the battle for third place.
The first period was goalless, but Yaroslav Kosov put the visitor ahead at the start of the second. The Jokerit response was swift: a power play goal from Veli-Matti Savinainen delivered straight from the team’s playbook. It still wasn’t plain sailing for the host, however: Lukas Sedlak restored Traktor’s lead just before the second intermission.
The visitor went out looking for more goals at the start of the third, but was hindered by the loss of starting goalie Stanislav Galimov after a collision with Savinainen. Ivan Fedotov came in his place but was beaten by Marko Anttila midway through the third. A short-handed goal from Savinainen then put the host in front for the first time on the night, but that was not the end of the drama. Traktor got the puck in the net shortly afterwards, but managed this feat by virtue of barging Janis Kalnins over the line as well; the effort was whistled off, and Jokerit held on.
The bottom two in the West met with nothing more than pride to play for – and Minsk got the win that opens a three-point gap over basement club Riga.
There were few chances in the first period, with the two teams sharing just nine attempts on target. In the second, Minsk raised the tempo, while both teams raised the temperature with a string of penalties. The fight between Andris Dzerins and Mikhail Stefanovich was the most prominent of those incidents, and while the two players cooled their heels in the box, Minsk grabbed two quick goals. Andrei Kostitsyn got the first, then Ryan Spooner doubled the lead on the power play.
Riga, winless since Jan. 4, was staring down the barrel of a 10th straight loss after mustering just two shots on goal in the second period. The Latvians gave themselves a chance, though, pulling one back through Uvis Balinskis on the power play with three minutes left. However, it wasn’t enough: not even 90 seconds with an extra attacker could change the final scoreline.