Andy Potts Andy Potts
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CSKA Moscow is the second team to book its playoff ticket, confirming its post-season place with a 3-2 win over Amur. The individual performance of the day came from Severstal’s 18-year-old forward Nikita Guslistov, who became the youngest Russian player to score a KHL hat-trick as his team won 6-3 at Avtomobilist. There were goals galore in Mytishchi, where Neftekhimik edged Kunlun 6-5. Other winners on the day included Barys, Lokomotiv, Metallurg, Traktor, Sochi and SKA.

Guslistov’s hat-trick writes history

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 Severstal Cherepovets 6 (0-3, 0-1, 3-2)

Nikita Guslistov became the youngest Russian to score at hat-trick in the KHL as Severstal picked up an impressive win at Avtomobilist. The Steelmen snapped a two-game losing streak thanks to the 18-year-old’s starring performance.

Guslistov, who made his KHL debut this season and scored his first goal in a December victory over Spartak, got all three of his goals in the first period. Two of them came after he himself won a face-off — and on both occasions got the better of none other than Pavel Datsyuk. The third came following a misplaced pass from home defenseman Korbinian Holzer. Aged 18 years, 236 days, Guslistov is the second youngest player in KHL history to score a hat-trick. Eeli Tolvanen holds the record: he was 18 years, 123 days old when he announced himself with a treble on his Jokerit debut.

Avtomobilist’s evening did not improve. Vladislav Provolnev made it 4-0 with the only goal of the second period and Alexander Petunin added a fifth at the start of the final frame. Guslistov’s day to remember continued with an assist on that play.

Belatedly, the home team showed some fight, pulling back a couple of quick goals before Petunin’s second of the game stifled any hopes of a comeback. Brooks Macek got the final goal of the game, but it was too late to save his team.

Mozyakin’s double drops Dinamo

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 5 Dinamo Riga 3 (3-0, 0-0, 2-3)

Dinamo’s win at Kazan was the shock result of the previous round of games but the Western Conference back-marker could not build on that success when it travelled to Magnitogorsk. Instead, a powerful first-period display from the host set up a fourth successive Magnitka victory.

Taylor Beck, back in the team after a minor injury, made an immediate impact. He got the first goal after 55 seconds, then turned provider with an assist on Sergei Mozyakin’s power play goal three minutes later. Nikolai Prokhorkin made it 3-0 late in the frame and Dinamo’s chances looked slim.

The visitor showed some resistance. A goalless second period was followed by a battling start to the third. Goals from Miks Indrasis, Rihards Bukarts and Gennady Stolyarov hauled Riga right back into the game; only a Nikolai Kulemin strike in the middle of that onslaught kept Metallurg hanging on to its lead. However, the final storm did not pay off and Mozyakin put his second of the night into an empty net to seal the home win.

Aberg gives Traktor the edge

Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1 OT (1-0, 0-1, 0-0, 1-0)

Pontus Aberg’s overtime winner lifted Traktor back into sixth place ahead of Torpedo, while Salavat Yulaev dropped behind Metallurg into fourth after a second defeat in three games. The result also spoiled a milestone day for Teemu Hartikainen, who made his 500th appearance for Salavat Yulaev but was unable to add to his impressive haul of points.

Traktor got off to a great start. Tomas Hyka opened the scoring in the first minute and continued to look good throughout the first period. Salavat Yulaev failed to make much of its first power play of the night and then had to deal with a 3-on-5 PK as Traktor flexed its muscles. However, the score remained 1-0 at the first intermission.

The second stanza began with Hyka hitting the crossbar before Lukas Sedlak was denied by Juha Metsola after a solo break. But gradually, the visitor came into the game more strongly. Late in the frame, Markus Granlund took his productive streak to four games when he set up Sakari Manninen for the tying goal. A last-ditch goalline clearance saved Traktor from going behind in the final seconds of the period.

In the third period, neither team was willing to commit too recklessly to offense and the game became slower and more cautious. Overtime was no surprise, and the outcome was settled when an Ufa penalty enabled Traktor to dust down its power play routines. Aberg duly delivered, wrapping up a fine combination, and the home team took the win.

Sidorov sends former club to the foot of the table

Kunlun Red Star 5 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 6 (2-1, 2-4, 1-1)

Kunlun Red Star welcomed fans back to Arena Mytishchi, and put on a goalfest against Neftekhimik. The teams have enjoyed three high-scoring encounters already this season, but today’s was the liveliest yet as they shared 11 goals before the visitor got a win that lifts its two points clear at the foot of the Eastern Conference.

Neftekhimik was the first to show, opening the scoring in the fourth minute when Libor Hudacek stole the puck from Andrej Sustr and beat Jeremy Smith in a one-on-one. The visitor almost engineered a similar situation while playing 4-on-4, but on that occasion Smith denied Pavel Poryadin and Red Star went to the other end of the ice and tied the scores through Gleb Shashkov. Moments later, Sergei Monakhov’s first of the season put the home team ahead and the second period began with Ethan Werek, who made his 100th KHL appearance earlier in the week, extending the Dragons’ lead.

At that stage, it looked like Neftekhimik was heading back to the foot of the Eastern Conference, but the visitor responded strongly to open a 4-3 advantage. Rafael Bikmullin, Marat Khairullin and Alexei Volgin did the damage. However, the game was far from done. Red Star tied it up again thanks to Spencer Foo before Bikmullin got his second of the game after combining with Volgin to make it 4-5 at the second intermission.

Red Star tied things up once more at the start of the third when Vojtech Mozik scored from the blue line, but the home team was halted by one of its former players. Defenseman Mikhail Sidorov played a handful of games for the Dragons early in the season but waited until tonight to get his first goal of the campaign, snapping a 5-5 tie and giving Neftekhimik the win.

Loko edges league leader

Ak Bars Kazan 3 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4 SO (1-0, 1-2, 1-1, 0-0, 0-1)

After a shock loss to Dinamo Riga in overtime, Ak Bars was taken the full distance once again when Lokomotiv came to town. The Railwaymen were smarting after back-to-back losses in the Urals and put on a much-improved performance here.

Photo: 21.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

Ak Bars made the better start and when Teemu Pulkkinen took a penalty in the eighth minute, that ushered in a spell of intense pressure on Eddie Pasquale’s net. That pressure paid off when Viktor Tikhonov fired home a Nigel Dawes pass to open the scoring. However, as the frame went on, Lokomotiv came into the game and began to probe for an equalizer.

That shift in momentum led to a tying goal at the start of the second period when Anton Lander set up Artur Kayumov to make it 1-1. Then the visitor got in front when Daniil Misyul joined the rush and thumped in a shot that took a small but significant deflection off Artyom Ilyenko on its way past Adam Reideborn. The lead was short-lived, with Patrice Cormier tying it up within a minute.

In the third period, the teams cancelled each other out for long periods before Dawes put Ak Bars in front with three minutes to play. However, Vladimir Tkachyov saved the game for Loko with a last-minute tying goal to force overtime. The former Ak Bars man tucked away the rebound after Reideborn stopped Andre Petersson’s shot.

Overtime could not separate the teams, and it took 12 rounds of the shoot-out before Yegor Averin gave Loko the edge and sent Ak Bars to a second successive loss.

CSKA secures playoff spot

CSKA Moscow 3 Amur Khabarovsk 2 (2-0, 1-1, 0-1)

CSKA booked its place in the playoffs, joining Ak Bars in this year’s race for the Gagarin Cup after this victory at home to Amur ensured that the Army Men could no longer be caught by any of the teams outside of the top eight.

Photo: 21.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. CSKA (Moscow) - Amur (Khabarovsk)

Knowing that the team’s destiny was in its own hands, Igor Nikitin’s squad wasted little time in putting the pressure on the visitor and Anton Slepyshev opened the scoring in the fourth minute off assists from Brendan Leipsic and Mario Kempe. Late in the first period, Kempe added a second goal on the power play as CSKA took control.

However, Amur has playoff ambitions of its own, albeit remote ones given the gap to the top eight in the East. The Tigers were not going to give up without a struggle and Alexander Sharov pulled a goal back at the start of the second period. However, discipline let the visitor down and another power play presented Kirill Maximov with his second career goal.

The young defenseman’s effort proved to be the game-winner; Valentin Pyanov got one back for Amur late in the game, but it wasn’t enough to deny CSKA the win ... and the playoff place.

Dynamo fires blanks in Shipachyov’s absence

Dynamo Moscow 0 Barys Nur-Sultan 2 (0-2, 0-0, 0-0)

Dynamo missed captain Vadim Shipachyov — and failed to score as Barys took advantage to tighten its grip on a playoff place.

Photo: 21.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Dynamo (Moscow) - Barys (Nur-Sultan)

The visitor took a grip on the game in the first period. The home offense lacked its usual incisive edge and two goals late in the frame put Barys in control. First, Jesse Blacker fired home off a neat pass from Phil Varone as he emerged from behind the net. Then Pavel Akolzin found a weak spot in Alexander Yeryomenko’s armor and squeezed a shot into the top corner.

The second period was goalless — but it took two video reviews to keep it that way. Barys had the puck in the net midway through the session when Roman Starchenko’s shot crossed the line before Yeryomenko could pad it away. However, while the first review confirmed that the puck had fully crossed the goal line, Dynamo’s bench challenged the call and a second review found that Yeryomenko was impeded. Early in the third, the officials were back in front of the screens after Nikita Mikhailis slid the puck into the net from a seemingly impossible angle. The cameras explained the optical illusion: the goal was off its moorings and Mikhailis’ shot slipped under the upraised base of the net.

That was the last significant action of the evening, with Dynamo unable to get its offense up to speed in the absence of its captain. Henrik Karlsson stopped 40 shots to secure the Barys victory.

Krasikov blanks former club

HC Sochi 3 Sibir Novosibirsk 0 (1-0, 0-0, 2-0)

Sibir’s playoff hopes took a big knock after it was blanked on the Black Sea coast. Alexei Krasikov stopped 35 shots to record his first shut-out of the season and give Sochi its first victory of 2021 — thwarting his former club in the process.

In form forward Sergei Shmelyov opened the scoring late in the first period, picking up his sixth goal in a five-game scoring streak. However, the game remained very much alive until the closing moments, when Sochi scored twice to wrap up the win. Ivan Mishchenko’s first of the season made it 2-0 and Igor Rudenkov’s empty net goal completed the scoring.

The loss leaves Sibir 11 points adrift of Barys in its search for a playoff place. To make matters worse, Nikolai Zavarukhin’s team has played three games more than its rival.

SKA too strong for Vityaz

Vityaz Moscow Region 1 SKA St. Petersburg 3 (0-1, 1-0, 0-2)

SKA outlasted Vityaz to claim victory in the third period as Vityaz lost ground in the Western playoff race. Victory for the home team would have put Vityaz ahead of Spartak into eighth place, but instead SKA took the points with two goals in the closing stages.

The Army Men went ahead in the first period through Igor Ozhiganov, but a short-handed goal from Zakhar Bardakov tied the scores in middle session. Bardakov is rising to greater prominence this season, helped by his call-up to Russia’s World Junior roster, but it was his international captain, Vasily Podkolzin, who put SKA back in front in the 46th minute. Ozhiganov got an assist on that play, moving to three points from two games.

Vityaz kept pressing until the end but home hopes were undone by an empty net goal from Joonas Kemppainen.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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