Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The final playoff place for KHL season 12 was confirmed today as Torpedo secured eighth place in the West with a 3-1 win at home to Jokerit. Closest challenger HC Sochi lost out at Severstal. At the top of the table, SKA’s victory at CSKA sees the defending champion slip to third overall behind its Petersburg rival and Eastern Conference leader Ak Bars. However, CSKA and Ak Bars both have one further game while SKA is finished on 93 points. Dynamo forward Teemu Pulkkinen scored his 23rd goal of the season – the best ever tally by a Finnish player in a KHL regular season – to help his team to a win at home to Traktor. Avangard lost its chance to top the Chernyshev Division when it suffered a loss at home to Avtomobilist. Elsewhere, Lokomotiv triumphed at Dinamo Minsk and Spartak got a road win at Vityaz.

Sibir gets back on track

Sibir Novosibirsk 4 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 1 (1-0, 2-0, 1-1)

Sibir snapped its losing streak with an impressive performance at home to Metallurg. Both teams sent out experimental rosters, giving youngsters a chance and offering game time to some of their fringe players. That meant no game for the likes of Vasily Koshechkin or Sergei Mozyakin, while Sibir rested Jyrki Jokipakka and Mikael Ruohomaa.

Sibir got the lead late in the first period when a goaltending error from Vasily Demchenko was punished by Alexander Sharov. Demchenko remained in place until the start of the second period but, after Oleg Piganovich doubled the lead, he was hooked in favor of young Gleb Nosov. It was the youngster’s first meaningful KHL action, having previously played just four seconds in the big league.

Nosov was beaten by Yegor Milovzorov late in the middle frame and then saw a Juuso Puustinen effort whistled off when the video showed the puck did not cross the line. The Finn eventually got his goal in the third, responding to Evgeny Biryukov’s consolation effort for the visitor. Metallurg’s loss means it will finish in seventh, and begins its post season away at Barys.

Torpedo completes the playoff line-up, Lehtonen misses out on record

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 3 Jokerit Helsinki 1 (3-1, 0-0, 0-0)

In-form forward Jordan Schroeder was on target again to set Torpedo on the way to a vital victory in its final game of the season. While David Nemirovsky’s team was always favorite to reach the playoffs ahead of Sochi, it needed to win this game to avoid relying on favors from others this week.

Schroeder opened the scoring in the ninth minute, and Ty Rattie doubled that lead just 11 seconds later. It was a perfect start for the host and Jokerit was left to call an early time-out in a bid to inject some stability into its play.

That gambit paid off, but only briefly. Niklas Jensen pulled a goal back, but it took just 30 seconds for Kirill Urakov to make it 3-1. That was how it stayed until the end. High-scoring defenseman Mikko Lehtonen was silent and finishes the season on 49 points, meaning that Esa Pirnes remains the highest-scoring Finn in regular season KHL play. He scored 50 (22+28) points for Atlant in the league’s debut season.

Fast start ends Sochi’s chances

Severstal Cherepovets 3 HC Sochi 2 (2-1, 1-1, 0-0)

This was a must-win game for Sochi, but the Leopards made the worst possible start. Two goals in the first five minutes saw Ilya Khokhlov and Geoff Kinrade put Severstal in control. Sochi’s fraying playoff hopes took a further blow as news came through that Torpedo was leading against Jokerit, but Nikita Tochitsky pulled a goal back to give the visitor hope.

The balance of play in the opening frame also suggested Sochi wasn’t done – the visitor outshot Severstal 14-4. However, it was the home team that got the next goal when Alexander Petunin made it 3-1 at the start of the second. Denis Mosalyov pulled one back late in the middle frame but there was no way back for the visitor and Sochi’s season ends after Thursday’s trip to CSKA.

Ak Bars targets regular season title

Ak Bars Kazan 3 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 2 (0-1, 3-1, 0-0)

Ak Bars put itself in with a great chance of topping the regular season table after it came from 0-2 down to win the latest edition of the Green Derby against Salavat Yulaev. The teams were meeting for the fifth time this season, and Ak Bars got its third win of that series after another absorbing game.

Photo: 25.01.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)

The result lifts Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team to 93 points, level with SKA and one clear of CSKA. SKA’s season is already over; Ak Bars and CSKA play again on Thursday to determine the regular season champion.

It didn’t look like Ak Bars would be in that conversation during the early stages of this game. Some sloppy backchecking from the home first line – reshuffled to cope with the suspension for Patrice Cormier – saw Philip Larsen set up Sakari Manninen for the opening goal midway through the first period. Then the Finn struck again early in the second to give the visitor a 2-0 lead.

However, penalty trouble put the skids under Ufa. Viktor Tikhonov pulled one back midway through the game on the power play. Then a flurry of penalties – Mikhail Pashnin’s 5+20 for slashing the most prominent – left Salavat defending a 3-on-5 situation and Andrei Pedan took advantage. The visitor was still killing penalties when Artyom Galimov potted the game winner late in the second period and Ufa could not save itself in the third.

Daryin’s first goal makes the difference

Dinamo Minsk 3 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 5 (1-2, 0-0, 2-3)

Dinamo fluffed its last chance to catch up with Riga at the foot of the KHL table and is now destined for the wooden spoon when a difficult campaign comes to an end on Thursday. This game against Lokomotiv was entertaining, but once again highlighted the problems for Craig Woocroft’s team this season as it allowed too many goals.

The first period was a case in point. Loko got an early lead through Jakub Nakladal but Dinamo hit back to tie it up thanks to Alexander Pavlovich. However, a late goal from Pavel Kudryavtsev sent Minsk to the locker room with that familiar losing feeling.

The middle session was goalless despite some strong offense from the home team. But the next breakthrough came at the opposite end when Grigory Denisenko made it 3-1 early in the third. Dinamo did not stop chasing the win, and twice pulled it back to a one-goal game with tallies from Ryan Spooner (who had a hand in all three of his team’s markers) and Stefan Elliott. But young Alexander Daryin’s first ever KHL goal proved to be the game-winner for Loko.

Pulkkinen breaks long-standing record

Dynamo Moscow 3 Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 OT (0-1, 2-0, 0-1, 1-0)

Teemu Pulkkinen got his 23rd goal of the season to set Dynamo on the road to victory over Traktor – and in the process he became the most prolific Finnish goalscorer in any KHL regular season. Esa Pirnes potted 22 for Atlant back in 2008/09 and that tally was matched by Juhamati Aaltonen during his spell with Metallurg, but Pulkkinen is the first to fire in 23.

His big moment came in the 33rd minute when he scored on the power play to put Dynamo up 2-1 on the night. That turned around the scoreline: Traktor went in front through a Nick Bailen power play goal midway through the first, before Daniil Tarasov tied it up early in the second.

Traktor hit back in the third and took the game to overtime on a late Andrei Popov goal. But Dynamo would not be denied and Vladimir Bryukvin won it in the extras. The Blue-and-Whites can beat Jokerit to fourth place with victory in Minsk in their final game of the season.

Avangard loss hands second place to Barys

Avangard Omsk 2 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4 (1-1, 1-2, 0-1)

Avangard lost the chance to top the Chernyshev Division when it lost at home to Avtomobilist and was thus condemned to finishing behind Barys. An unconvincing end to the season saw Bob Hartley’s men lose four on the spin, giving the Kazakhs the chance to overtake. Avto, meanwhile, secured fourth place and home advantage in its upcoming series against Sibir.

Photo: 25.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Avangard (Omsk) - Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg)

This game got off to a breathless start. Taylor Beck, up against one of his former clubs, opened the scoring after 58 seconds but Avtomobilist tied it up within a minute through Alexei Vasilevsky. The second period produced another quick exchange of goals, with Dan Sexton giving the visitor the lead for 40 seconds before Sergei Shumakov replied. However, late in the frame Peter Holland scored on the power play and that goal proved decisive.

The visitor had to dig in during the third period as Avangard did all it could to get a win that would move it back in front of Barys. However, the Motormen defended bravely and sealed the verdict with an empty net goal from Vasilevsky nine seconds from the end. Avangard can now prepare for a first-round series against Salavat Yualev.

SKA finishes on a 12-game streak

CSKA Moscow 1 SKA St. Petersburg 4 (0-0, 1-3, 0-1)

SKA moved to the top of the Western Conference with a decisive victory over CSKA in its final game of the season. The Muscovites must now win at home to Sochi on Thursday to reclaim the summit in the West, but also need Ak Bars to slip up if they are to repeat last year’s regular season triumph.

Photo: 25.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. CSKA (Moscow) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

This game was decided in the middle frame. The opening stanza was goalless and the teams managed just 10 shots on goal between them. However, the start of the second was full of action. Kirill Kaprizov fired CSKA ahead on 21:03, only for Evgeny Ketov to respond 26 seconds later.

Another scoring flurry late in the session saw SKA take a 3-1 lead. A delayed penalty saw Lukas Bengtsson fire one in from the point and center Jarno Koskiranta got the crucial touch to make it 2-1. Then Artyom Zub repeated Bengtsson’s effort and benefitted from traffic in front of Ilya Sorokin to double the lead. A cagey third period suited the visitor just fine, and Andrei Kuzmenko’s empty net game set the seal on a 12th straight win for SKA.

Daugavins double defeats Vityaz

Vityaz Moscow Region 2 Spartak Moscow 4 (2-2, 0-0, 0-2)

Spartak finished its regular season with a win on the road in Podolsk, while Vityaz must beat Lokomotiv in its final game to take seventh place in the Conference.

Photo: 25.02.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - Spartak (Moscow)

The first period was a lively affair with Svyatoslav Grebenshchikov twice giving the home team the lead, only for Anton Zlobin and Maxim Goncharov to respond. But Vityaz is in poor form of late – this would be a fifth successive loss – and after a goalless middle frame, Spartak snatched the win at the start of the third.

Kaspars Daugavins was the main man. The Latvian international gave Ilya Ezhov no chance after a 2-on-0 breakaway, then struck again 20 seconds later to tip a Evgeny Kulik shot beyond the home goalie. Spartak will finish fifth in the West and could face a playoff derby against Dynamo in round one.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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