Jokerit continued its good record against Traktor, securing its fifth successive win in Chelyabinsk. The result keeps the Finns in touch with Severstal and Spartak as the Western playoff race intensifies.
The teams made an uncertain start, with both sides failing to convert early power plays. Traktor shaded the play in the opening frame but found itself behind at the intermission thanks to a goal from David Sklenicka midway through the session.
Once in front, Jokerit was able to extend its lead in the second period. The visitor was helped by a major penalty for Igor Polygalov, ejected from the game for a hit to the head of Saku Maenalanen, who had to be helped from the ice by the medics. At the time of the incident, Brian O’Neill had already made it 2-0; the subsequent power play brought a third Jokerit goal from Jordan Schroeder.
Traktor needed a fast start in the third. Instead, it allowed a fourth goal as Veli-Matti Savinainen beat Roman Will. The home team had to wait until the middle of the frame before finally solving Anders Lindback. Traktor did it in some style, with Yaroslav Kosov and Sergei Kalinin scoring twice in 21 seconds, raising hopes of a grandstand finish.
But that was as good as it got for Traktor, with Antti Pihlstrom’s empty-netter wrapping up the win for Jokerit.
Dinamo Riga made a spirited fightback in the third period before falling to defeat at Severstal. After an impressive shoot-out win at SKA in its previous game, Dinamo was looking to record back-to-back victories for the first time this season. Instead, though, the playoff chasing Steelmen held on to take the points and remain in sixth place.
Denis Vikharev put the home team ahead in the ninth minute and when Yegor Morozov doubled the lead with a power play goal early in the second period, it seemed that Severstal was on its way to a straightforward success. The home team had a clear advantage in all areas, and that was only enhanced when Denis Parshin was given a 5+20 at the start of the third. The power play became a 5-on-3 advantage, and Vladislav Provolnev duly extended Severstal’s lead.
However, Dinamo was not done. The Latvians made a game of it thanks to goals from Martins Dzierkals and Miks Indrasis. Tempers frayed: after the second Riga goal, JC Lipon and Anton Sizov came to blows. Lipon was identified as the instigator of the fight, and got 2+5+10 for his troubles, while Sizov sat out a major for his part in the ruckus. Then Ondrej Vitasek left Riga with just three skaters for the second time in the game, and Shawn Lalonde punished the visitor to end any hopes of stealing a win.
Kunlun Red Star recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since October after coming out on top of a see-saw game in Sochi.
The Leopards took control of the game midway through the first period with goals from two former SKA players. Ivan Volodin marked his debut for his new team with the opening goal on the power play, then Vasily Glotov made it 2-0.
But it all changed fast at the start of the second, with the Dragons roaring back into the game. Two goals in 15 seconds saw Luke Lockhart and Ethan Werek tie the game, and it wasn’t long before a 5-on-3 power play enabled Casey Wellman to score on his former club and give Red Star the lead. Sochi’s disciplinary problems continued when Volodin was ejected from the game, but the home team killed that penalty and tied it up at 3-3 late in the frame thanks to Daniil Miromanov’s surge down the right-hand boards.
Red Star overcame that disappointment, though, and regained the lead midway through the third when Gleb Shashkov got his first goal for the club. The play was similar to the Werek goal, with Shashkov surging down the right and slipping a pass behind his back for Werek to shoot. This time, the initial effort was saved and Shaskov reacted fastest to tuck away the rebound.
Sochi’s hopes of getting back into the game were hampered when Igor Rudenkov took a tripping penalty just seconds after Maxim Tretyak left his net with the home team on the power play. That derailed the scheduled surge from the home team and helped the Dragons move off the foot of the Eastern Conference.
The recent upswing in Metallurg’s form came to a crunching halt in Kazan. Magnitka’s recent streak began after the team battled to an encouraging shoot-out loss at home to the Eastern Conference leader on Nov. 25 and, five wins later, Ilya Vorobyov’s team was emerging as a potential contender at the top of the Eastern Conference. But this showdown saw Ak Bars deliver a stern message to its prospective rival.
Timur Bilyalov led the way, stopping 24 pucks for his second shut-out of a season disrupted by injury and illness. He was well supported by a defense that absorbed plenty of Metallurg pressure without buckling. The visitor spent noticeably more time on the attack, but was unable to convert that territorial advantage into scoring chances.
At the other end, Ak Bars got a goal in each period to take the win. Nigel Dawes opened the scoring in the 15th minute when his intended feed to the back door evaded everyone and slipped inside the far post. Then Dawes turned provider, finding Stephane Da Costa in acres of space between the hashmarks. The Frenchman needed no second invitation, clinically slotting the puck through the fivehole to double the lead late in the second. Midway through the third, Stanislav Galiyev wrapped it up, putting away the rebound from a Kirill Petrov effort to claim his third goal in three games.
In-form Dynamo made it five wins from six, but had to retrieve a two-goal deficit to win in Minsk. The result denies the Belarusian club a place in the top four, with the Muscovites opening a three-point gap in the Western Conference.
However, Minsk came into the game on a similar run to its opponent — four wins from its previous five — and made a blistering start. Ilya Usov opened the scoring in the fourth minute and Shane Prince doubled the lead with a shorthanded effort a couple of minutes later.
The home team managed to kill the rest of that penalty, but Dynamo got one back through Daniil Tarasov in the seventh minute and an absorbing first period finished with the teams deadlocked after Juuso Hietanen made it 2-2 just before the hooter.
In the second period, the scoring slowed. But no game is complete at the moment until Dynamo’s top line has its say. Once again, Vadim Shipachyov was involved in the Blue-and-White winner, setting up Dmitrij Jaskin for the go-ahead goal as Minsk struggled with a 3-on-5 PK. That was enough to give the visitor the verdict; not for the first time, the Moscow top line made the crucial difference.
Two goals in the last 90 seconds of play gave Spartak the win. Oleg Znarok’s men built on Monday’s overtime verdict against Jokerit and tightened its grip on a top-eight place. Neftekhimik, meanwhile, slipped to a fourth straight loss and falls to the foot of the Eastern Conference.
That was harsh on the visitor, which led twice in this game before losing it late on. The first period saw Otso Rantakari open the scoring on the power play, only for Yakov Rylov to tie it up 23 seconds before the break. The middle frame followed a similar pattern, with Alexei Volgin restoring Neftkehimik’s lead before Maxim Tsyplakov hauled Spartak level.
Early in the third, Spartak had a 5-on-3 power play but failed to take advantage. Indeed, it seemed that overtime was inevitable as the clock ticked down, but with 90 seconds left to play Jori Lehtera scored a power play goal to give the Red-and-Whites the lead for the first time in the game. Lehtera has been a key player for his team this season, but the Finnish center tends to deal in assists rather than goals. Nonetheless, his sixth tally of the campaign was also his second game-winner. Neftekhimik did all it could to salvage the encounter, but instead saw Tsyplakov score his second of the night into an empty net.