Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Salavat Yulaev and Metallurg joined the teams already confirmed in this year’s playoffs after wins on the road at Amur and Spartak respectively. And there’s a battle afoot for the remaining four places in the East, with just one point separating fifth from eighth. Avtomobilist lost ground after losing 1-3 at home to Ak Bars, Barys closed in with a 4-1 victory over Neftekhimik and Traktor inched ahead by a single point after an overtime loss at Sibir.

Ufa books playoff place, Zohorna leaves Amur

Amur Khabarovsk 2 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 (0-1, 2-1, 0-1)

Salavat Yulaev booked its playoff place thanks to a second win in three days over Amur. Sakari Manninen’s goal early in the third period proved decisive as the men from Ufa became the fourth team this season to confirm a top-eight finish.

The game was also notable for the home team, which said a fond farewell to long-serving forward Tomas Zohorna. The Czech has been with the Tigers for six seasons but announced this week that it’s time to return home, where his wife is expecting their first child. Tomas marked his last game of the season with one more point for Amur, getting an assist on his brother Hynek’s goal six seconds into the middle frame.

That cancelled out Rodion Amirov’s opener for Salavat Yulaev, but Ufa responded strongly and enjoyed the better of the play early in the second period. The pressure paid off, and Mikhail Naumenkov restored the visitor’s lead in the 26th minute. Salavat also had a 5-on-3 power play, but could not capitalize on that opportunity. However, as the session continued, Amur brought more to the game. Late in the middle stanza, a power play goal from Pavel Turbin tied the scores.

The winner came early in the third. Teemu Hartikainen’s strength behind the net pushed Michal Jordan out of the game and the Finn set up his compatriot Manninen for the decisive goal. Daniil Tarasov, who got the nod ahead of Juha Metsola in the Ufa net, stood up to some late Amur pressure to complete the win.

Sibir edges important win over Traktor

Sibir Novosibirsk 3 Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 OT (1-0, 1-1, 0-1, 1-0)

Sibir continues its battle to stay in touch with the playoff places and picked up an important victory over Traktor, one of the rivals in its sights. However, the visitor got a point after taking the game to overtime and moves to fifth, one point ahead of three opponents in the top eight.

The visitor had the better of the opening exchanges but failed to take its early chances. As the first period went on, more penalties crept into the and when Sibir’s Oleg Li went to the box in the 17th minute it led to the first goal of the game. However, it was a short-handed effort scored by Nikita Korotkov after he and Alexander Sharov launched a swift breakaway following a blocked shot at the other end of the ice.

Traktor responded early in the second period when Tomas Hyka’s pace took him away from the home defense and his wrister surprised Harri Sateri in the Sibir net. However, the host kept plugging away and restored its lead midway through the game when Yegor Milovzorov’s hard work in the corner created a chance for Danil Romantsev to make it 2-1. The second stanza ended with a fight between Ilya Pastukhov and Vyacheslav Osnovin, with the home player having the better of the battle.

Sibir spent the third period trying to contain Traktor as the visitor fought to get back into the game. However, with two minutes left, Vitaly Kravtsov broke through the home defense and took the action into overtime with a one-timer off a Lukas Sedlak feed.

In the extras, Sibir won it with a breakaway goal. Sateri made the save, Sharov got the puck clear and Li streaked down the left channel to beat Roman Will and give the Siberians a vital win.

Avto home woe continues

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 1 Ak Bars Kazan 3 (0-0, 1-2, 0-1)

Home has not been very comfortable for Avtomobilist recently and today’s game brought a fourth successive loss in the Motormen’s five-game stand in the Urals. Table-topping visitor Ak Bars snapped a two-game skid of its own to record a third win of the season over Bill Peters’ team.

Photo: 28.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg) - Ak Bars (Kazan)

The first period produced no goals, and remarkably few breaks in play. Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team played fluent hockey, dictating much of the play but failing to find the breakthrough. That all changed at the start of the second, when Albert Yarullin let fly and his shot deflected off a defenseman and flew into the home net.

Within a minute, it was 2-0. Avto failed to clear its lines and a wayward pass was gobbled up by Dmitry Voronkov. The youngster got away from his markers and outwitted Jakub Kovar, finishing the play with a backhander through the five hole.

After a disastrous start to the second period, Avto regrouped and began to take control of the game for the first time, surging forward in search of a way back into the contest. The effort paid off when Nikita Tryamkin won possession in center ice and sent Peter Holland on the attack. Stepan Khripunov joined in the play and finished it off to make it 1-2 at the second intermission.

At the start of the third period, it looked as though Avtomobilist might be about to tie the game. The home team had the better of the early stages, but failed to take its chances. And, inevitably, Ak Bars punished that. Nigel Dawes, once a favorite of the Yekaterinburg crowd, needed no second invitation when Alexander Burmistrov found him all alone in front of goal. It was Dawes’ first goal on Avtomobilist since leaving the club and it put the game out of reach of his former colleagues. However, Avtomobilist does not have long to wait for another shot at the leader. The teams meet here again on Wednesday.

Lilja’s double leads Barys to victory

Barys Nur-Sultan 4 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1 (1-0, 1-0, 2-1)

Barys kept its playoff push on course with a comfortable victory over a Neftekhimik team already eliminated from this year’s post season. Victory keeps Barys in eighth place, 11 points ahead of Sibir and with two games in hand.

The first period was cagey, but a power play goal in the last minute gave Barys a lead to take to the intermission. Dmitry Shevchenko was the scorer, first screening Fyodor Korotayev then redirecting Valery Orekhov’s shot into the net. Neftekhimik challenged the play and lost, burning its time-out in the process.

Neftekhimik responded with a bright start to the second period but could not get back on level terms. Gradually Barys reasserted itself and late in the frame Yegor Petukhov doubled the home lead. At the start of the third, a schoolboy error in the visiting defense helped Jakob Lilja put the game out of reach with a third goal. Lilja scored again midway through the session before Daniel Butsayev spoiled Henrik Karlsson’s stats with a late goal for Neftekhimik.

Six in a row for Metallurg

Spartak Moscow 1 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 (1-1, 0-1, 0-1)

Metallurg recorded its sixth win on the spin to confirm its place in the playoffs. For Spartak, meanwhile, this was a missed chance to move into the top eight in the West. The Red-and-Whites remain ninth in the conference, level on points with Vityaz.

Photo: 28.01.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Spartak (Moscow) - Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Magnitka was the first to show. Spartak took the game’s first penalty and despite managing to withstand the visiting offense, Metallurg opened the scoring seconds after Anatoly Nikontsev returned to the game. Yegor Yakovlev was the scorer, turning out of the left-hand corner and firing a shot along the goalline. His effort clipped the shoulder of Julius Hudacek and snuck into the net.

Spartak tied the scores in the 15th minute and, like Metallurg, found the net just as a power play was coming to an end. After switching the play around the visitor’s zone, the puck came to Lukas Radil and his shot was redirected past Vasily Koshechkin to make it 1-1.

The next goal came on the power play and it went to Metallurg late in the second period. Yakov Rylov sat for hooking after Andrei Chibisov was poised to burst through on the Spartak net, and as he watched, Nikolai Kulemin put the visitor back in front.

If Spartak hoped to save the game in the third period, it reckoned without a visiting defense that was content to absorb pressure on the outside and protect Koshechkin’s net. As the game wore on, the visitor looked more and more dangerous on the break and that paid off in the 58th minute when Chibisov fired home Philip Holm’s pass to make it 3-1 and put the game beyond Spartak’s reach.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg) Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Amur (Khabarovsk) Amur (Khabarovsk)
Barys (Nur-Sultan) Barys (Nur-Sultan)
Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk) Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)
Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
Sibir (Novosibirsk Region) Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)
Spartak (Moscow) Spartak (Moscow)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
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