Andy Potts Andy Potts
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A 5-3 victory over closest challenge Avangard was enough to give Ak Bars first place in the Eastern Conference. Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team is also well-placed to top the regular season table; Ak Bars is currently one point behind CSKA, but has a game in hand on the Army Men. Elsewhere, Vityaz missed a chance to secure its playoff place when it lost heavily at Lokomotiv, while Torpedo got a vital victory in its bid to beat HC Sochi to the top eight. Sibir’s overtime win at Barys owed much to goaltender Alexei Krasikov.

Krasikov keeps Barys at bay

Barys Nur-Sultan 1 Sibir Novosibirsk 2 OT (0-0, 0-0, 1-1, 0-1)

Both of these teams had secured their playoff places ahead of Tuesday’s game, and in all probability the only outstanding question from the regular season was whether Sibir could take fourth place ahead of Avtomobilist. A game-winning display from goaltender Alexei Krasikov boosted the visitor’s chances of doing just that as he made 45 saves to backstop an overtime win.

Much of this game was a goalies’ duel. Neither Krasikov nor his opposite number Eddie Pasquale gave anything away until midway through the third period. Then Sibir finally broke the deadlock with a goal from Yegor Milovzorov. The puck flew into the net off the forward’s skate after Nikita Shashkov drove an effort to the slot; after a video review, the referees ruled that the goal was good.

It wasn’t good enough to win the game in regulation, however. With five seconds left, Barys threw everything forward in a last-ditch attempt to save the game – and Linus Videll put the puck in the net to take us to overtime. The extras saw Barys go close, but Sibir got the verdict thanks to a Jyrki Jokipakka goal.

Vityaz must wait to secure playoff place

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 5 Vityaz Moscow Region 1 (1-1, 1-0, 3-0)

Lokomotiv all-but guaranteed itself sixth place in the West – and a likely first-round playoff match-up against Jokerit – after an emphatic victory over seventh-placed Vityaz on home ice. The result also denies Vityaz a guaranteed top-eight finish; HC Sochi can still catch the visitor.

Photo: 18.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) - Vityaz (Moscow Region)

Loko took the lead after five minutes, scoring with almost its first significant attack of the game. Staffan Kronwall’s point shot was tipped home by Alexander Svitov and, despite suspicions of a high stick, the video review gave it the thumbs up. However, Vityaz tied the scores when Pekka Jormakka converted the first power play of the evening and the game was level at the intermission.

The home team broke that tie midway through the second period when it got its first chance on the power play. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson was the scorer, converting the rebound from his own shot. Then, early in the third, Artur Kayumov fired one in from the blue line to give the Railwaymen a more comfortable lead.

Vityaz continued to press but could not find a way past Alexander Lazushin. Then it gambled on withdrawing the goalie during a power play and after losing the puck, the visitor saw Vladimir Tkachyov score into the empty net. Then, a minute later, Alexander Polunin emerged from the box and almost immediately added a fifth to complete a high-scoring win for Lokomotiv. Yaroslavl is now seven points clear of Vityaz; the Podolsk team has only four games left to close that gap and still needs one more win to clinch its own playoff place.

Ak Bars secures top spot in the East

Ak Bars Kazan 5 Avangard Omsk 3 (2-0, 0-0, 3-3)

Ak Bars made sure of first place in the Eastern Conference with a victory at home to its closest rival, Avangard. The visitor, which had won the last two encounters between the teams, was looking to cut the gap to three points with three games to play when it travelled to Kazan on Tuesday. However, defeat at the Tatneft Arena means the Hawks now face an unattainable seven-point margin and must now focus on withstanding the challenge of Barys at the top of the Chernyshev Division.

Photo: 18.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Avangard (Omsk)

Ak Bars made a great start, taking the lead after 82 seconds when Emil Galimov converted Mikhail Glukhov quick break. The home team extended its lead just before the intermission when young Dmitry Voronkov’s perceptive pass set up Stanislav Galimov at the back door. In between, though, Avangard was more than a match for its host, creating more chances and shading the overall play without finding a way to score.

The middle session was goalless as the teams cancelled each other out, but the third period saw the visitor run into penalty trouble. Justin Azevedo added a third goal as Kazan enjoyed a 5-on-3 power play, and Avangard players continued to visit the box with wearisome regularity as Voronkov added a fourth, also on the power play. When Mikhail Fisenko made it 5-0, there was every possibility of a rout, but Bob Hartley’s team recovered somewhat in the closing stages and earned some respectability with three late goals. Rob Klinkhammer and Yegor Martynov reduced the arrears, Danis Zaripov then missed a penalty shot for the host and Pavel Dedunov had the final word with a last-minute consolation goal.

Schroeder sparks Torpedo win

Spartak Moscow 2 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 3 (0-1, 1-0, 1-2)

Two goals from Jordan Schroeder led Torpedo to a vital victory as it looks to secure its playoff place. David Nemirovsky’s team remains eighth in the West, but now holds a five-point lead over Sochi, with latter having just four games to play.

Photo: 18.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Spartak (Moscow) - Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod)

Schroeder opened the scoring in the third minute, getting a generous deflection off a Spartak defenseman after he fired in a shot from the blue line. That proved to be the only goal of an evenly-matched first period, and Torpedo continued to look solid in the second. However, close to the intermission, Spartak tied it up with a short-handed goal from Maxim Tsyplakov.

Early in the third, the home team moved in front thanks to a Yakov Rylov goal. His point shot beat Anders Lindbak, with the Swede screened by Mikhail Yunkov. Stanislav Bocharov quickly tied the scores once again, paving the way for Schroeder to grab the winner. This time, the American forward got his stick to Anton Volchenkov’s shot and diverted the puck past Julius Hudacek. The visitor still needed to kill a penalty but held on to snap a three-game losing streak and ease the tension in its push for the playoffs.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Barys (Nur-Sultan) Barys (Nur-Sultan)
Vityaz (Moscow Region) Vityaz (Moscow Region)
Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
Sibir (Novosibirsk Region) Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)
Spartak (Moscow) Spartak (Moscow)
Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod)
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