Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Saturday was a high-scoring day in the KHL – and Lokomotiv was simultaneously a winner and a big loser. The Railwaymen clinched a playoff place following Sochi’s defeat in Kazakhstan, but went down 0-4 at home to CSKA later in the day. Elsewhere, the goals flew in. Avtomobilist won a 10-goal thriller in Minsk, while fans in Latvia saw even more goals as Dinamo tied 6-6 with Dynamo Moscow before succumbing to a Dmitrij Jaskin goal in overtime. Ufa saw two hat-tricks – Nikita Soshnikov and Vasily Tokranov hitting three apiece – as SKA won 5-4 in overtime. Metallurg also had a high-scoring game, edging Jokerit in a shoot-out after a 3-3 tie to secure a vital win in its playoff battle. The race in the East remains tight, with Neftekhimik and Amur very much in contention after defeating Admiral and Torpedo respectively. Kunlun lost ground after suffering a shoot-out loss at Traktor, which is now officially out of contention. And the same is true of Severstal, defeated at Sibir in the opening game of the day.

No playoff for Severstal

Sibir Novosibirsk 3 Severstal Cherepovets 2 (2-2, 0-0, 1-0)

Severstal’s mathematical hopes of reaching the playoffs came to an end with this defeat at Sibir. The Steelmen remained in contention – just – thanks to victory over Kunlun Red Star last time out, but had no margin for error in this game.

The visitor made a good enough start. Makar Khabarov opened the scoring after five minutes. The added urgency of Severstal’s cause boded well for Andrei Razin’s men, and even after Juuso Puustinen tied the game, it took a matter of seconds for Ilya Khokhlov to restore the lead.

However, penalty trouble late in the first period helped Jyrki Jokipakka tie the scores for a second time on the power play. Then, after an even middle frame produced no goals, Sibir got its winner in the 54th minute thanks to Igor Makarov.

Shevchenko strike hits Sochi playoff hopes

Barys Nur-Sultan 3 HC Sochi 2 (1-0, 1-1, 1-1)

Sochi’s playoff hopes took a big knock as it went down to a narrow loss in Kazakhstan, while Barys recorded a sixth successive victory and is now assured of a top-four finish in the East. That means home advantage at the start of the playoff campaign for Andrei Skabelka’s team, which has now delivered three straight wins since many of these players were involved in Kazakhstan’s disappointing loss here in Olympic qualification last weekend.

Here, Barys jumped to a 2-0 lead with goals either side of the first intermission. Anton Sagadeyev opened the scoring, then Curtis Valk extended the advantage. However, Sochi is desperate for every available point as it tried to reduce a three-point deficit to Torpedo in eighth place in the West. And with a Sergei Shmelyov goal – shorthanded – late in the second period followed by a tying goal from Malte Stromwall, the visitor looked capable of taking something from this game.

Barys, though, had other ideas. With nine minutes left, Dmitry Shevchenko got the game-winner for the host. Sochi’s defeat also confirmed Lokomotiv’s playoff place even before the Railwaymen’s game against CSKA later on Saturday afternoon.

A game of two hat-tricks

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 4 SKA St. Petersburg 5 OT (2-1, 1-2, 1-1, 0-1)

Nikita Soshnikov blew the KHL goalscoring race wide open with a hat-trick in this game. The Salavat Yulaev forward moved level with Dynamo Moscow’s Dmitrij Jaskin on 27 goals for the season, at least ahead of the Moscow team’s visit to Riga in Saturday’s late game.

Photo: 15.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

However, his efforts were upstaged in this game by another hat-trick from SKA’s Vasily Tokranov to hand his team the win. The defenseman scored two in regulation before potting the decider in overtime. That effort came after good work from Andrei Kuzmenko behind the net and took a deflection as it beat Juha Metsola to win the game.

Earlier, Soshnikov dominated the first period of an entertaining clash between a SKA team still looking to take top spot in the regular season table and a Salavat Yulaev roster seeking to confirm its playoff place. His two first-period efforts turned the game around after Lukas Bengtsson gave the visitor an early lead, but the middle frame saw a pair of markers from Tokranov bring the Army Men back level after Soshnikov potted his third.

In the third period Sergei Plotnikov had SKA in front again early on, before Vladislav Kartayev made it 4-4 and took the action into overtime. The extras lasted just 48 seconds before Tokranov completed the day’s second hat-trick and gave his team the points.

Anxious times for Red Star

Traktor Chelyabinsk 3 Kunlun Red Star 2 SO (1-0, 1-2, 0-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Traktor edged past Red Star in a shoot-out to leave the Chinese team sweating on its playoff place. The Dragons remain in the top eight but are just two points clear of ninth-placed Neftekhimik. Adding to the pressure, Kunlun has just two games left, while its immediate rivals have five to play.

Traktor, meanwhile, remains at the foot of the Eastern Conference and, following Metallurg’s win in Finland, can no longer hope to reach the playoffs. The home team got ahead here midway through the first period thanks to Andrei Popov, and the same player had the puck in the net a second time only to be denied by an offside call.

In the second period, Red Star replied with two quick goals midway through the frame. Luke Lockhart and Ethan Werek were on target as the visitor turned the game around. But that lead was brief; Vyacheslav Osnovin capitalized on a goaltending error to tie the game.

There was no further scoring, with Traktor squandering a power play during overtime. In the shoot-out, though, the home team made no mistake to take the verdict.

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 6 Admiral Vladivostok 1 (2-0, 2-0, 2-1)

Neftekhimik is hitting form at just the right time – and a fourth consecutive victory keeps Vyacheslav Butsayev’s team in contention for a playoff place.

Here, the host wasted little time in taking control of the game. Ildar Shiksatdarov opened the scoring on 1:46, and Vitaly Atyushov doubled the lead in the fourth minute. Admiral was hanging on in a game that it needed to win to revive its own playoff prospects; Neftekhimik allowed the visitor just three shots in the opening frame.

Two further goals in the second period took the game beyond Admiral’s reach, with Jonas Enlund and Timur Sharifyanov on target. In the third, the teams traded goals in the 45th minute when Denis Vikharev got Admiral on the scoreboard only for Ryan Murphy to immediately restore Neftekhimik’s four-goal lead. A late effort from … was the final word: Neftekhimik’s playoff push is alive and well.

Solid win for Ak Bars

Ak Bars Kazan 4 Spartak Moscow 1 (0-0, 1-0, 3-1)

Ak Bars continues to lead the way in the Eastern Conference and recorded its ninth win in 10 games with a convincing success against Spartak.

Photo: 15.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Spartak (Moscow)

This game took some time to get going: Ak Bars dominated the opening session without finding a breakthrough and it was a matter of seconds before the second intermission that the home time finally turned pressure into goals. Kirill Petrov broke the deadlock, much to the relief of the crowd in the Tatneft Arena.

However, Spartak wasn’t about to roll over. Early in the third, the visitor made it 1-1 through Alexander Khokhlachyov. Could Oleg Znarok inspire a backs-to-the-wall victory? Not this time. Danis Zaripov restored Ak Bars’ lead on the power play, youngster Nikita Dynyak made it 3-1 and Emil Garipov wrapped it up with a minute left to play.

CSKA bounces back from Barys loss

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 0 CSKA Moscow 4 (0-1, 0-0, 0-3)

Lokomotiv came into this game knowing that its playoff place was secure following Sochi’s loss at Barys. However, the Railwaymen would still benefit from securing sixth place and avoiding a likely first-round series against either CSKA or SKA. And this game highlighted just why the Army Men are the teams to avoid as the season reaches the sharp end.

The defending champion simply had too much for Loko here. In the first period, while the play was fairly even, CSKA got the only goal. It took just seven seconds for the visitor to convert its first power play of the day; Nikita Nesterov’s piledriver from the blue line beat Ilya Konovalov.

The middle session produced few clear chances, but the Muscovites had the better of what was on offer, without extending their lead. But any doubts about the outcome were settled in the middle of the third. Andrei Svetlakov doubled the lead, then Kirill Kaprizov added two more, one on the power play, as CSKA assumed complete control.

Amur stays alive, Torpedo still not safe

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 Amur Khabarovsk 5 (0-1, 1-2, 1-2)

Amur’s remarkable charge towards the end of the season continues with a sixth win in seven games. The Khabarovsk club looked to be out of playoff contention after beginning 2020 with nine straight losses, but a recent revival has changed the picture. Amur is still an outsider for a top-eight finish, but now sits just four points behind Metallurg and Kunlun in the race for the playoffs.

Photo: 15.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) - Amur (Khabarovsk)

The latest success came at Torpedo, where David Nemirovsky’s team is making hard work of punching its ticket for post season. The Nizhny Novgorod club is still in the top eight but seems to be relying as much on Sochi’s struggles as on its own strengths as it looks to get over the line.

In-form Amur, meanwhile, took the lead in the first period through Ondrej Vitasek and never looked back. There was just one brief blip early in the second when Artyom Alyayev tied the scores on the power play; otherwise, the visitor was well on top. Alexander Gorshkov and Artyom Zhelezkov made it 3-1 by the second intermission and the shot count of 26-8 in Amur’s favor spoke still more eloquently of the visitor’s control of the game.

Torpedo briefly threatened to make a game of it when Damir Zhafyarov made it 2-3 at the start of the third, but two minutes later Nikita Yazkov scored Amur’s fourth of the night. Valery Vasilyev completed the scoring as a tight Eastern playoff race looks set to go right down to the wire.

Vital win for Magnitka

Jokerit Helsinki 3 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4 SO (1-1, 1-2, 1-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Metallurg collected a vital victory as it looks to stay ahead of the pack in the race for the playoffs. Ilya Vorobyov’s team remains in eighth place, but held its two-point advantage over Neftekhimik with Amur a further two behind. While those two teams have hit a rich vein of form, this shoot-out verdict was only the second success in seven games for Magnitka.

The early stages weren’t encouraging. Jokerit, enjoying a run of three successive wins ahead of this game, took the lead with the first power play of the night. The Finns dictated the play effectively, moving the puck smoothly around the Metallurg zone until Veli-Matti Savinainen found the way to goal. Magnitka needed a quick response and got it – with help from some Jokerit penalties – when Sergei Mozyakin tied the scores.

Early in the second, another power play for the visitor saw Mozyakin turn provider with an assist on a Tomas Filippi goal. But Jokerit replied midway through the frame on a goal from Saku Maenalanen, the first equal-strength marker of the evening. That ushered in a spell of home pressure, but the next goal went to the visitor. Mozyakin was involved once again as Yegor Yakovlev made it 3-2.

Nothing has been straightforward for the Steelmen this season, though, and it was perhaps unsurprising that they won this the hard way. A Marko Anttila goal in the third took us to overtime, a penalty on Filippi in the extras left Metallurg hanging on in the closing stages. Then came the shoot-out and a game-winner from Brandon Kozun – a man who began his KHL career in Helsinki.

Platt at the double to sink former club

Dinamo Minsk 4 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 6 (1-1, 1-1, 2-4)

Avtomobilist snapped a three-game losing streak after outlasting Dinamo in a wild game in Minsk. This was a topsy-turvy affair, with both teams having the lead before two goals in the last five minutes gave Avto the edge.

Dinamo, playing for nothing more than pride at the end of a difficult season, got the opening goal in the fifth minute through Francis Pare. The former Avtomobilist forward claimed his 11th goal of the season, but the lead did not last. Alexei Vasilevsky tied the scores in the first period, then Geoff Platt – another man up against a former club – put Avto ahead midway through the game.

A Shane Prince power play goal restored parity, but a double salvo at the start of the third period seemed to have the game sewn up for the visitor. Brooks Macek made it 3-2 and, 14 seconds later, Artyom Gareyev added a fourth. But Dinamo refused to give up and battled back to tie the scores once again. Mikhail Stefanovich started the fightback, Prince’s second of the game made it 4-4 and with five minutes to play this was anybody’s game.

However, Dan Sexton made it 5-4 to the visitor 30 seconds after Prince’s marker and Platt scored into an empty net to seal the win for the Motormen.

Goals galore in Riga

Dinamo Riga 6 Dynamo Moscow 7 OT (5-2, 0-3, 1-1, 0-1)

Dmitrij Jaskin grabbed a hat-trick as Dynamo won a roller-coaster of a game in Riga. The Czech international’s performance restored his three-goal lead in the KHL goalscoring race after Nikita Soshnikov’s treble earlier on Saturday brought the Salavat Yulaev man level with his rival in Moscow.

The first period was action-packed, from the moment the visitor took the lead after 11 seconds through Daniil Tarasov. Riga responded with goals from Andris Dzerins and Gints Meija to lead in the sixth minute, but Tarasov struck again to level it up.

Then came two goals in six seconds as Marek Daloga and Sergei Gimayev gave the home team a bit of a cushion. Alexander Yeryomenko replaced Ivan Bocharov in the Moscow net, but could not stop Carter Ashton adding a fifth.

In the middle frame, though, Dynamo hit back. Andre Petersson reduced the deficit on the power play, Dmitrij Jaskin moved back ahead of Nikita Soshnikov in the goalscoring chart when he made it 4-5, then another power play saw Yegor Zaitsev tie the scores late in the frame.

Jaskin struck again midway through the third to give Dynamo the lead for the first time since that early Tarasov tally. That looked set to be the winner, but the host tied it up when Meija potted his second of the game in an almighty scramble with 22 seconds left on the clock. However, overtime saw the visitor complete the win as Jaskin completed his hat-trick.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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