In the West, Dinamo Riga got its first victory since Jan. 4 when Alexander Protapovich got the winner against his former team, Avtomobilist. CSKA, SKA and Jokerit all enjoyed comfortable wins, while Severstal had a morale-boosting – if ultimately meaningless – success at Traktor.
Another vital win for Magnitka lifts Ilya Vorobyov’s team to seventh in the East – and pushes Red Star to the brink of elimination in the playoff race. Kunlun now has just one game left, against Dinamo Riga, and it needs to win that and hope that neither Amur nor Neftekhimik can claw back a four-point gap in their remaining four games. To add to the intrigue, the two challengers will meet one another twice in Khabarovsk before the end of the campaign.
This game was all about special teams. All three goals came on the power play, with Bogdan Potekhin giving Metallurg the lead early in the second period. The Dragons came out in the third determined to everything to save the game – and perhaps the season. Outshooting Metallurg 18-8, and twice hitting the frame of the goal, the visitor gave it everything. However, another home power play saw Sergei Mozyakin set up Tomas Filippi for the decisive goal.
Kunlun got one back through Ryan Sproul. Luke Lockhart and Trevor Murphy both rang the iron in the closing stages. But Metallurg held on, and now has a four-point cushion over ninth place with a potentially decisive game against Neftekhimik still to come.
Salavat Yulaev confirmed its playoff place after edging past Sochi in the third period. For the visitor, this was a wasted opportunity to close the gap in the West and move to within a point of eighth-placed Torpedo.
The home team began in determined fashion and dominated the first period. However, despite outshooting Sochi 12-3, there was no way past Ilya Proskuryakov. In the middle frame, the visitor had the better of the play but, once again, there was no scoring.
The deadlock was broken at last midway through the third. Sochi took a too many men call and exactly halfway through the session, Alexander Kadeikin capitalized to give Ufa the lead. An empty netter from Linus Omark wrapped it up, while Juha Metsola recorded his 12th shut-out for Salavat Yulaev to set a new club record in the KHL era.
Neither team had any chance of reaching the playoffs, so this game was purely about pride. And Severstal took the honors after two late goals secured a second win in three games for Andrei Razin’s team.
The visitor made a good start and went into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead. Arturs Kulda opened the scoring early with a goal on a delayed penalty, then Vladislav Kodola doubled the lead late in the frame.
The middle session was goalless, but Traktor hit back in the third to tie it up on tallies from Czech duo Lukas Sedlak and Tomas Hyka. That wasn’t enough, though. Severstal rallied and regained the lead in the 57th minute with a power play goal from Andrei Alexeyev. Nikita Khlystov found the empty net to seal the win.
It could be the most unlikely playoff run in KHL history. Amur, seemingly out of the race at the end of January, just cannot stop winning. This come-from-behind success at Neftekhimik makes it seven wins from eight and puts the Tigers just two points shy of a playoff place. Now level on points with today’s opponent, Amur hosts Neftekhimik twice in its remaining four games as the race for a playoff place looks set to go to the wire.
This game was as unpredictable as Amur’s season. The visitor snatched an early lead but went into the intermission 1-2 down after Pavel Kulikov and Pavel Poryadin turned it around for the host. More worryingly, the visitor’s only shot on goal was that Vladislav Ushenin strike in the second minute.
However, the second period was very different. A Kirill Rasskazov power play goal tied the scores and Vladislav Ushenin put Amur back in front shortly after the midway mark. Neftekhimik hit back to tie it up thanks to Rafael Bikmullin, but Rasskazov struck again seconds before the intermission to give the visitor a crucial advantage. In the third, Amur worked hard to limit the scoring chances at both ends of the ice, and secured the win when Ushenin completed his hat-trick into an empty net.
Anton Burdasov made his long-awaited return from injury in this game, and the SKA forward quickly reminded everyone what he was all about. He scored in the 42nd minute, his ninth goal of the season and his first since Dec. 17 against Severstal to rubberstamp his first appearance in almost two months.
The goal also triggered a flurry of home scoring as SKA turned a 2-0 lead at the second intermission into a comfortable 6-0 victory. Admittedly, Admiral had not seriously troubled the home team in the early stages: although the scoreline was close, there was little evidence that the visitor might launch a comeback.
Instead, SKA turned up the heat and its pressure was finally converted into regular goals. Jori Lehtera added a fourth, Joonas Kemppainen struck on the power play and Vladimir Tkachyov wrapped it up late on.
CSKA forward Mario Kempe got his 100th point in the KHL with a goal and an assist in this game, while Kirill Kaprizov scored twice to take his goal haul to 29 this season, just one behind Dmitrij Jaskin.
The Swede started with a helper as Kaprizov opened the scoring late in the first period, then found the net himself to double the lead midway through the second. Kaprizov assisted on that one, then scored again late in the middle frame.
In the third, Minsk got on the scoreboard at last thanks to Alexander Kogalev, but CSKA was in no mood to allow any slip ups as it looks to stay clear of Ak Bars at the top of the table. Maxim Mamin added a fourth goal to seal another convincing road win.
This was billed as a clash between two of the top offenses in the league. Unfortunately for the neutrals, only one of them delivered. Dynamo fired blanks, but Jokerit powered to a big win and guaranteed a top-four finish and home ice advantage at the start of the playoffs.
Mikko Lehtonen led the way for the Finns, collecting four points, while Antti Niemi showed signs of a return to form after a difficult season. The vastly-experienced netminder got his first shut-out of the campaign.
The first period was competitive. Jokerit got in front in the 12th minute thanks to Saku Maenalanen but needed a bench challenge to overrule a Dynamo equalizer shortly afterwards. The visitor then found itself on the PK and allowed a second goal right on the hooter.
In the middle frame, Dynamo ran into penalty trouble with Dmitrij Jaskin and Andre Petersson both taking misconduct calls. Robbed of its firepower, the visitor stumbled. Jesse Joensuu added a third, Niklas Jensen made it 4-0 and chased Ivan Bocharov from the net midway through the game and Lehtonen added a well-merited goal to his hat-trick of helpers as the home power play delivered once again.
With the outcome settled, the third period offered relatively little. Tommi Kivisto took a game penalty for slashing, but Dynamo was unable to get even a consolation goal out of his five-minute major and the game finished 5-0 to the host.
After the excitement of Saturday’s 13-goal thriller, this was a low-scoring affair. But few Latvians will object after seeing their team finally snap its long losing streak.
Riga’s last win came on Jan. 4, 1-0 at home to Barys. Since then, Girts Ankipans saw his team lose 13 in a row before getting the W here at last. Admittedly, Avtomobilist looked set to pile on the misery at the start of this team, taking the lead in the second minute thanks to a power play goal from Dan Sexton.
The visitor looked to have the edge for much of the game but was unable to add to that early strike. And eventually, Dinamo found a way to respond. Kirill Slepets tied the scores as the second intermission approached, while Alexander Salak was in impressive form in the home net to frustrate the Motormen.
The winning goal went to Alexander Protapovich, a 23-year-old forward discarded by Avtomobilist earlier in the season. His move to Riga has brought some rewards despite his new team’s tough campaign: this was his fifth goal and 10th point as he finally starts to enjoy some game time.