It was supposed to be a tight battle between two teams scrapping for the last playoff place in the East. However, nobody told Jonas Enlund and Neftekhimik. The Finnish forward blasted a second-period hat-trick to lead his team to a crushing victory that means it remains a three-way battle for eighth in the Conference.
The first period was wide open, with both teams firing in the shots. However, the only goal went to the visitor thanks to Timur Khafizov in the eighth minute. Then came the rampage. Enlund increased the lead early in the second, made it 3-0 midway through the frame, then converted a 5-on-3 power play for number four. Zack Mitchell added a fifth late in the middle session to take the game far beyond the Tigers.
In the third, Neftekhimik produced another scoring blitz, grabbing three goals in 14 seconds to seal an emphatic win. The last of them, a Damir Sharipzyanov shot that went wide of the net before bouncing off the boards and in off the back of home goalie Evgeny Alikin rather summed up Amur’s day.
The teams meet again tomorrow, with Neftekhimik knowing that victory could secure a playoff place if Kunlun Red Star fails to beat Dinamo Riga. Amur will need instant revenge for today’s loss to keep its own playoff prospects alive.
Both of these teams are coming to the end of uneven regular season campaigns and both are looking for better in the upcoming playoffs. Metallurg secured its top-eight finish in its previous game and was hoping to beat Ufa to sixth place in the East.
However, the visitor went closest in the first period. Dmitry Kugryshev got the puck in the net but his effort was immediately whistled off for a high stick. In the second stanza, too, Salavat Yulaev was unfortunate not to take the lead when Alexander Kadeikin pounced on a defensive error, beat Vasily Koshechkin, but saw his shot come back off the post.
In the third, Magnitka finally broke the deadlock. Sergei Mozyakin intercepted the puck and put it neatly beyond Juha Metsola’s grasp. Eric O’Dell then saw an effort ruled out for use of the skate before another video review saw the officials award Eduard Gimatov a tying goal for Salavat. In overtime, Sakari Manninen scored on the power play to give Ufa its first win of the season over Magnitogorsk.
Ak Bars stays in contention for the regular season title thanks to a high-scoring win over lowly Dinamo Minsk, but the Belarusians did not let the Eastern Conference leader get the points easily. The visitor led 3-1 at one stage and tied the game at 4-4 in the 57th minute before succumbing to a late goal from the host.
After Ak Bars dominated a goalless opening stanza, Shane Prince gave Dinamo the lead early in the second. The home team responded through Andrei Pedan to tie the scores, but Andrei Kostitsyn restored Minsk’s advantage before the intermission. Then, early in the third, Alexander Pavlovich struck on the power play to make it 3-1.
Then came the fightback. Mikhail Glukhov, Viktor Tikhonov and Kirill Petrov found the net to put Dmitry Kvartalnov’s title chasing team in front for the first time with just seven minutes to go. A short-handed goal from Prince tied it up again, but Danis Zaripov responded quickly to convert the power play, restore the home lead and win the game for Ak Bars.
A solitary goal from Yegor Averin in the 35th minute made the difference in this clash in Balashikha. The win confirms that Lokomotiv will finish sixth in the West and will probably face Jokerit in the first round of the playoffs.
Avangard, meanwhile, suffered a third successive loss and is now in danger of dropping to third in the East behind Barys. If so, that would probably send Bob Hartley’s team into a playoff pairing with Salavat Yulaev, a repeat of last season’s Eastern Conference final.
Lokomotiv made the brighter start and only an offside call denied Alexander Svitov an early goal. However, in the second period Avangard began to dictate the play, only to be caught out by Averin’s effort late in the frame. Brandon McMillan was close to tying it up moments later; he knocked the puck goalward with his hand, desperately tried to get some stick on it but only made contact after it had crossed the line.
Avangard then dominate the third but could find no way past Ilya Konovalov. The youngster finished with 34 saves to claim the win.
Mikko Lehtonen closed to within a point of Esa Pirnes’ scoring record but could not help his team escape a heavy loss at home to SKA. Lehtonen’s fifth-minute goal took him to 49 points for the season; Pirnes scored 50 for Atlant in 2008/09 to set a record for the most productive regular season by a Finnish player.
However, that was as good as it got for Jokerit here. Kirill Marchenko tied the game in the 10th minute to frustrate the home team as it dominated the opening frame. Subsequently, SKA took a grip on proceedings. The middle stanza saw Ivan Morozov and Evgeny Ketov extend SKA’s lead and the visitor added three more in the third. Finnish duo Miro Aaltonen and Jarno Koskiranta found the net on a return to their homeland, while Marchenko got his second of the game off a Vasily Podkolzin helper.
The win moves SKA to within one point of table-topping CSKA, while Alexei Kudashov’s young guns once again showed their worth. Marchenko had two goals and two assists, Morozov got a goal and Podkolzin had two helpers as the junior line wreaked havoc in Helsinki.
Oleg Znarok’s Spartak once again lost out against his former club, Dynamo, but this time he was closer than ever to success. The Red-and-Whites believed they had the victory when Alexander Khokhlachyov raced clear in the last minute of overtime and scored on Ivan Bocharov. Instead of snapping a 1-1 tie and delivering the win for Spartak, though, the forward saw his effort ruled out on a too many men call. That took the game to a shoot-out and Vladimir Bryukvin delivered the points for the home team.
Earlier, Dynamo got an early lead when Vyacheslav Kulyomin scored. Spartak responded by raising the tempo but could not force an equalizer. In the second period, the home team had more of the play but neither goaltender was seriously tested.
Then, early in the third, Anatoly Nikontsev tied the scores when he collected Artyom Fyodorov’s pass, outwitted Andrei Mironov and slid a shot through Bocharov’s five-hole. Pavel Khomchenko than kept Spartak in the game with some big saves in the closing minutes to take the game into overtime.