Amur victory preserves at least a theoretical chance of a playoff places for the Tigers, but Sibir’s defeat adds to the pressure on Nikolai Zavarukhin’s team as the regular season nears the finish. Sibir lies 11 points adrift of eighth place with just eight games left to play. It’s entirely possible that the top eight for the East will be known before the end of the week.
Amur took the initiative from the first shift and got its reward midway through the opening frame when Kirill Rasskazov opened the scoring with a fine goal. The home team enjoyed almost complete control in the first period, leading on all key indicators.
Sibir began to change things in the middle frame, but only after Amur extended its lead to 3-0. First, a quick breakaway saw Rasskazov set up Dominik Masin to make it two. Then Vladimir Mikhasyonok added a third before the visitor began to dictate the play.
This game between two teams already condemned to miss the playoffs brought some belated cheer for Sochi with a convincing road win against an Eastern Conference struggler.
Neftekhimik took the lead in this one after 14 minutes when Pavel Poryadin opened the scoring, but it wasn’t long before Nikita Tochitsky tied it up. In the second period, a power play goal from Nikita Feoktistov put the visitor in front. Leading scorer Sergei Shmelyov got an assist, getting straight back on the goal trail after his seven-game streak was interrupted at Dynamo on Friday.
Two late goals steered this game in the direction of the home team after an absorbing battle in Balashikha. Reid Boucher’s 56th-minute effort proved decisive and Avangard moved two points clear of Salavat Yulaev at the top of the Chernyshev Division.
Lokomotiv’s playoff place was confirmed yesterday when Spartak lost at home to SKA, and the Railwaymen had more to celebrate midway through the first period. However, the visitor took the lead against the run of the play and in freakish fashion, Maxim Osipov firing in the puck from the red line and wrong-footing Igor Bobkov, who stumbled as he tried to retrieve the situation.
In the second period, Avangard turned the game around thanks to the partnership between Ilya Kovalchuk and Denis Zernov. The two have not played together for long, but showed signs of a profitable pairing. First, Zernov went behind the net, deceived the defense and played a pass back the way he came where Kovalchuk was waiting to score. Then the roles were reversed, with Kovi getting the helper on Zernov’s power play goal.
Oddly, Lokomotiv took the lead in a period that Avangard dominated, and the Hawks responded while the Railwaymen controlled the play. The visitor continued to have the better of the action and seemed well placed to go on and win it when Andre Petersson tied it up midway through the third. However, Boucher struck on the power play and Alexei Potapov wrapped it up with an empty net goal.
This was a big game in the race for the Western playoffs. A win for Vityaz would give it a two-point cushion over ninth-placed Spartak and lift the visitor to within three points of Dinamo in sixth. However, a Minsk triumph would open a seven point gap and put post season well within the reach of the Belarusian team.
With so much at stake, both teams made a cautious start. However, late in the first period, goals began to flow. Rob Klinkhammer put Minsk in front in the 15th minute, getting between the hash marks to fire home Shane Prince’s feed from behind the net. But Vityaz tied it up on a short-handed goal from Alexander Dergachyov, only to see Francis Pare restore the home lead on the same power play.
Minsk went into the intermission with Prince in the box, and Vityaz emerged to take advantage at the start of the second. Daniil Pylenkov fired home Jakub Jerabek’s pass to tie the game. Then the teams traded two quick goals, with Ilya Usov putting Dinamo back in front only for Danila Moiseyev to tie it up a minute later.
The start of the third period belonged to Dinamo, with Roman Gorbunov making it 4-3. That looked set to be the game winner, but in the final minutes the teams once again traded quickfire strikes. First, Prince’s power play effort opened a two-goal lead for the first time in the game. However, it wasn’t long before Vityaz had a power play of its own and, playing 6-on-4, Linus Hultstrom pulled one back for the visitor before time ran out.