Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The battle to top the regular season table is going down to the wire. Leader CSKA lost 2-3 at home to Barys, and its advantage is cut to just one point following Ak Bars’ 2-1 success in Riga. SKA and Avangard also had wins, over Torpedo and Admiral respectively, to stay within reach of the Conference leaders.

In the playoff race, Sibir secured its place in the East despite losing in a shoot-out to Sochi. The visitor needed those two points, and the Leopards are now just three points behind Torpedo. Metallurg, meanwhile, faces a nervous finale after a 0-4 loss at Neftekhimik. Ilya Vorobyov’s team is just two points clear of today’s opponent.

Sibir makes playoffs despite defeat

Sibir Novosibirsk 2 HC Sochi 3 SO (2-0, 0-0, 0-2, 0-0, 0-1)

Both teams left this game as winners. For Sochi, the two points keep playoff hopes alive in the West; for Sibir, the point from tying in regulation secured a ticket to post season for the first time since 2016.

The home team enjoyed the better of the early stages, jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first period. Dmitry Sayustov opened the scoring early in the game and Jukka Peltola doubled the lead in the 13th minute. The Siberians looked to have put a 0-3 home defeat against Red Star behind them.

But the second stanza saw Sochi grasp the momentum and dominate play without finding a way to reduce the deficit. Then in the third, goals from Denis Mosalyov and Simon Bertilsson saw the visitor tie the scores. That took us all the way to a shoot-out, where Malte Stromwall delivered the decisive blow. Sochi is now just three points behind eighth-placed Torpedo and has a game in hand over its rival.

Aksonen at the double as Jokerit wins again

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 Jokerit Helsinki 4 (0-1, 0-2, 3-1)

Jokerit remains on course for third place in the West after victory on the road in the Urals. The Finns were on top for much of this game, but a last-minute scare gave the final scoreline a tighter look.

A pacey, absorbing opening frame produced plenty of chances but just one goal, scored by Ahti Oksanen midway through when he tucked away the rebound following a Marko Anttila shot. In the second session, the visitor pulled away. Anttila and Oksanen were involved once again as the forward got his second of the game, then a mix-up on the home power play presented Veli-Matti Savinainen with the chance to add a third just after the midway mark.

If the scoreline was decisive, the pattern of play was less one-sided and Brooks Macek gave Avtomobilist hope when he pulled one back with 10 minutes to play. Then came a final flourish. Brian O’Neill grabbed what proved to be the winner in the 58th minute, but Avto set nerves jangling when it scored twice in the last minute. Macek’s second of the game looked like a mere consolation, Alexander Kucheryavenko added a third as the siren sounded; the home revival ran out of time and Jokerit took the win.

Spartak looks comfortable in Ufa

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 2 Spartak Moscow 5 (1-3, 0-0, 1-2)

Spartak enjoyed an assured victory in Ufa as it looks to hit peak form ahead of the playoffs. For Salavat Yulaev, meanwhile, an inconsistent campaign sees Nikolai Tsulygin’s men against alternating wins and losses. It’s unlikely that Ufa will be left outside of the post season party, but it remains hard to shake the sense that Salavat might struggle to match last year’s run to the Conference final.

Early goals from Dmitry Vishnevsky and Andrei Kuteikin set Spartak on the road to this win, giving the visitor a 2-0 advantage inside seven minutes. Artyom Fyodorov added a third and Juha Metsola’s evening came to an end after just 12 minutes as Andrei Kareyev came to the net. The home team responded with an Alexander Burmistrov goal just before the hooter.

The middle frame produced no further goals, but the third saw Spartak extend its lead. Robin Hanzl and Anton Zlobin took the score to 5-1 before a last-minute power play effort from Nikita Soshnikov offered a modicum of consolation for the host.

Loko back to winning ways

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4 Dinamo Minsk 1 (2-0, 1-0, 1-1)

The Railwaymen remain on track for sixth place in the West – and, significantly, an opening playoff match-up that avoids CSKA or SKA – following a convincing win over Dinamo Minsk. The Belarusians, long out of contention for a playoff place, had few answers here as Loko snapped its two-game losing streak.

Vladimir Tkachyov opened the scoring in the third minute and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson doubled the lead at the end of the first period to get Loko underway. Then Artur Kayumov added a third in the 27th minute to give the scoreline a comfortable feel.

Minsk celebrated a rare victory last time out, winning in Riga, but never looked likely to repeat that result. Ryan Spooner got a goal back for the visitor in the third, but Nikolai Kovalenko had the final say late in the game.

Anxious times for Metallurg

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 4 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 0 (0-0, 2-0, 2-0)

Metallurg, twice a Gagarin Cup winner and always a part of the KHL playoffs, is in serious danger of missing out this season. Thursday’s defeat in Nizhnekamsk sees Neftekhimik close to within two points of Ilya Vorobyov’s team. Moreover, Magnitka has just one win in its last six games – form that would alarm any team.

Neftekhimik, meanwhile, has posted three successive wins and scored 14 goals along the way. Here, a game-winning performance from goalie Alexander Sharychenkov saw him make 31 saves for his shut-out, while at the other end the offense got four goals from just 17 attempts on target.

The opening session was tight, with neither team creating much. But the second was a tale of Metallurg profligacy and clinical home finishing. The visitor dominated the play, but Jacob Berglund broke the deadlock midway through on a rare foray forward by the host. Timur Sharifyanov doubled that lead, Neftekhimik had two goals from four shots, and the game was heading in one direction.

The third followed a similar pattern. Marat Khairullin made it 3-0 during a spell of 4-on-4 play, then Zack Mitchell added a fourth. Vasily Koshechkin left the game with 10 minutes to play, replaced by Vasily Demchenko, but there was no way back for an increasingly anxious visitor.

Severstal stays alive

Severstal Cherepovets 2 Kunlun Red Star 1 (1-0, 0-1, 1-0)

The Steelmen made the perfect start in a must-win game. Only victory would do if Severstal was to retain any hope of making the playoffs, and it took just eight seconds for Yegor Chizhikov to feed Bogdan Yakimov for the opening goal.

However, Red Star is also in urgent need of points to sustain its playoff push in the East. After overcoming that early shock, the visitor took control of the game in the second period and, arguably, should have had more than a Devante Smith-Pelly marker to show for its efforts.

Solid work from Vladislav Podyapolsky in the home net kept the scores level and we were already into ‘next goal wins’ territory when Vadim Kudako squeezed a shot inside Simon Hrubec’s near post to give Severstal the lead.

Finnish trio finishes Torpedo

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 SKA St. Petersburg 3 (1-2, 1-0, 0-1)

Torpedo battled back from 0-2 down at home to high-flying SKA, but David Nemirovsky’s side lost out to a late goal and remains in a bitter battle to clinch a top-eight finish in the West.

SKA, meanwhile, is refusing to give up on its chances of overhauling CSKA at the top of the table. Jarno Koskiranta and Joonas Kemppainen gave the visitor a 2-0 lead inside 12 minutes here as the Army Men made a scorching start to the game. However, it could not last. Torpedo got on the scoresheet through Kirill Urakov and went into the second period with increased confidence.

Chances flowed at both ends in the middle frame, and the bulk of them went to Torpedo. The pressure paid off on 32 minutes when Damir Zhafyarov tied the game. Now it was all about momentum. Could Torpedo ride that wave all the way to victory, or would SKA reverse the tide and take the points for itself?

Jori Lehtera had the answer, with the Finnish center joining his compatriots on the scoreboard to pot a 57th-minute winner. He reacted fastest to an unexpected rebound off the boards and beat Anders Lindbak to secure the win.

CSKA slip blows the title race open

CSKA Moscow 2 Barys Nur-Sultan 3 (1-1, 0-1, 1-1)

The Army Men’s grip on top spot is a little looser tonight. This defeat, coupled with wins for Ak Bars and SKA, means that CSKA is just one point clear of the Eastern Conference leader and three ahead in its own section. Barys, meanwhile, moves ever closer to securing third place in the East as Avtomobilist continues to stutter.

Photo: 13.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. CSKA (Moscow) - Barys (Nur-Sultan)

An even first period produced an even scoreline. Sergei Tolchinsky gave CSKA the lead, taking his personal tally to six goals in five games, but Corban Knight tied it up late in the frame. It wasn’t until the 35th minute that we saw the first power play of the night, but after a too many men call on CSKA, Barys took full advantage as Linden Vey gave the visitor the lead.

CSKA tied it up early in the third through Klas Dahlback. He was assisted by Linden Vey, who collected a second helper of the night against his former club. However, Vey was destined to end on the losing side when Darren Dietz fired home the winner in the 53rd minute. Anton Slepyshev missed out on a point for the first time in 2020.

Avangard impresses, Admiral in trouble

Avangard Omsk 5 Admiral Vladivostok 2 (1-1, 3-1, 1-0)

Avangard is another team with hopes of taking top spot and this home win over Admiral keeps it four points behind the CSKA team that defeated it in last year’s grand final. For Admiral, though, tonight’s loss sees the playoff places drift further away: a four-point gap remains, but now there are just six more games – and both Amur and Neftekhimik have climbed above the Sailors.

Photo: 13.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Avangard (Omsk) - Admiral (Vladivostok)

The home team had the better of the first period, but could not build on Brandon McMillan’s power play goal. Instead, Kirill Voronin tied the game before the intermission. In the second, though, the Hawks took flight. Another power play marker, this time from Taylor Beck, restored the lead. There was a brief glitch when Alexander Mereskin tied it for a second time, but Kirill Semyonov and Sergei Shirokov built a 4-2 advantage that was too much for the visitor.

In the final frame, Admiral cut out the penalties that had dogged it earlier in the action. However, it could not test Igor Bobkov again, and Sergei Shumakov completed the scoring with an empty-net goal.

Battling Amur still in playoff contention

Vityaz Moscow Region 3 Amur Khabarovsk 4 SO (0-1, 3-1, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

Amur’s late surge for the Eastern playoffs could turn into one of the stories of the season: down at the foot of the table all season, and suffering a nine-game skid at the start of the year, the team has turned around impressively to climb to 10th, just four points behind Metallurg in eighth. It’s still an improbable dream, but the team has hit form at the right time.

Photo: 13.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - Amur (Khabarovsk)

Here, too, Amur came from behind to snatch a tense victory. Despite taking an early lead through Igor Rudenkov, the visitor trailed 3-1 in the second period. Alexei Byvaltsev, Joonas Nattinen and Alexander Semin put Vityaz in control of the game, only for Amur to wrest it back. Valery Vasilyev scored twice, either side of the second intermission, and that tied the scores.

Overtime could not separate the teams, and the shoot-out took time to find a winner. Twice, Vityaz had the edge, twice Amur responded. Then Rudenkov delivered the knock-out blow to keep Amur’s unlikely playoff push alive.

Voronkov downs Dinamo

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

Young forward Dmitry Voronkov was the star for Ak Bars as the Eastern Conference leader moved to within a point of CSKA in the race to top the regular season table.

The youngster, part of the World Junior silver medal roster last month, had a goal and an assist in his team’s 2-1 win at lowly Riga. The Latvians, meanwhile, suffered their 12th consecutive loss – an unwelcome club record in the KHL era.

This game was tighter than the league standings would suggest. Ak Bars got an early lead through Emil Galimov in the fifth minute but could not build on that. Andris Dzerins tied the scores late in the first period and the game remained deadlocked until Voronkov’s winner arrived with 66 seconds on the clock.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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