Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Sibir’s last hope of clinching a playoff place ended on Friday when Nikolai Zavarukhin’s team blew a 2-0 lead and lost at home to Barys. Defeat in regulation meant it was mathematically impossible to catch today’s opponent. Avtomobilist celebrated its post-season place with a win at home to Neftekhimik. In the West, there are still four playoff places up for grabs and Severstal’s 5-2 win at home to Spartak sent the visitor out of the top eight. Vityaz moved up thanks to a 3-1 success at home to Dinamo Minsk, while Jokerit strengthened its case with a 2-1 verdict over Kunlun Red Star. There were mixed results for the Conference leaders: CSKA won 2-0 at Sochi, but Ak Bars went down 0-3 at Metallurg, which extends its winning streak to nine games.

Barys rallies to secure playoff place

Sibir Novosibirsk 2 Barys Nur-Sultan 3 (1-0, 1-1, 0-2)

This was a must-win game for the home team if it was to have any hope of staying in the playoff race. In truth, the odds were already stacked against Sibir, which would need to pull off a seven game winning streak while hoping that the teams above it continued to lose, but defeat at home to Barys extinguishes even a theoretical chance of progress.

Sibir went ahead thanks to Jyrki Jokipakka’s 15th minute goal but Barys had every reason to feel aggrieved that it went to the intermission behind. Twice, the piping saved the home team, then late in the session it took a goal line clearance from Ilya Morozov to protect the net as his team killed a 3-on-5 penalty.

At the start of the second, Nikita Komarov increased the home lead but Barys hit back at once thanks to Maxim Musorov. Often named in the roster, the 19-year-old rarely gets on the ice and this was his first active appearance since Jan. 23. As well as potting his second goal of the season, he also enjoyed a personal best of 12:30 in game time. Shortly after that, a fight between Darren Dietz and Nikita Shashkov saw the Sibir forward injured but his team held its lead until the second break.

Barys needed a win in regulation to confirm its playoff place today, and quickly set about achieving that in the third period. Goals from Kirill Panyukov and Jesse Blacker, two minutes apart, put the visitor in front and Sibir was unable to respond.

Zhukenov’s double sets up Avtomobilist win

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 4 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 3 (1-0, 3-2, 0-1)

While this game was underway, Avtomobilist learned that its playoff place was secure due to events in Novosibirsk. Now, the task facing Bill Peters and his team is to get into form ahead of those playoffs after a sometimes patchy regular season.

Home goalie Jakub Kovar was rested for this game, which enabled Peters to use five import skaters. And one of them, Korbinian Holzer, set up Georgy Belousov for the only goal of the first period. In the second, things escalated rapidly. Avto increased its lead through Dmitry Zhukenov, who put away the rebound after a flurry of shots. But Neftekhimik awoke and tied the game with a pair of quick goals from Ildar Shiksatdarov and Linus Johansson. However, the Motormen rebuilt their lead. First, Zhukenov got his second of the game after the puck flew off his skate and into the net. In one period, he matched his goal tally from his previous 19 games in the KHL. Soon afterwards, Brooks Macek added a fourth home goal.

Neftekhimik, looking to improve on a four-game losing streak, fought to get back into the game in the third period. An early power play saw Marat Khairullin reduce the deficit but Avto held on to secure the win despite having to withstand another penalty.

Koshechkin blanks Ak Bars

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 Ak Bars Kazan 0 (0-0, 0-0, 3-0)

Metallurg delayed Ak Bars’ march to the Kharlamov Division title, halting the league leader’s four-game winning sequence and taking its own hot streak to nine games.

Much of that success was due to goalie Vasily Koshechkin, who made 42 saves to deny the visitor. That brought up the 83rd shut-out of the veteran’s KHL career, increasing his lead at the head of the all-time list.

In the early stages, Metallurg set the pace, but once Ak Bars successfully killed a sixth-minute penalty on Nikita Dynyak the visitor assumed control. The home players were no strangers to the penalty box in the rest of the first period, and Koshechkin was by far the busier of the goalies. The second period was more even — both in terms of penalties, with five minors for each team, and in terms of shots. But neither team could force a breakthrough.

The decisive moment arrived in the third period. With 45 minutes played, Mikhail Pashnin got on the scoresheet for the second game in a row after Andrej Nestrasil won an attacking face-off and fed the defenseman on the blue line. Ten minutes later, the home team made it safe. Taylor Beck did well to get past Roman Rukavishnikov and when his shot came back off the post it fell to Dennis Rasmussen to make it 2-0. And Beck got another assist late in the game when his no-look pass set up Sergei Plotnikov’s empty net goal to seal the win.

Pilut’s late goal saves Traktor

Traktor Chelyabinsk 3 Amur Khabarovsk 2 SO (0-2, 1-0, 1-0, 0-0, 1-0)

Amur blew a 2-0 lead and went down to a shoot-out loss at Traktor after a lively encounter in Chelyabinsk.

The first period belonged to the visitor. Kirill Rasskazov opened the scoring inside three minutes then, after absorbing some pressure from Traktor, Amur added a second just before the intermission thanks to a fine Alexander Polunin pass to set up Denis Golubev.

It was a long way back for the host, but Traktor began that journey at the start of the second period when Vyacheslav Osnovin halved the deficit with a power play goal. But Evgeny Alikin was proving a formidable obstacle in the Tigers’ net and it wasn’t until the final seconds that Lawrence Pilut tied the scores and sent the action into overtime.

The extras brought plenty of opportunities, but it needed a shoot-out to determine the winner. And Lukas Sedlak clinched the verdict for the home team to snap Amur’s two-game winning streak.

O’Neill unlocks Shikin, gives Jokerit the win

Kunlun Red Star 1 Jokerit Helsinki 2 (1-0, 0-1, 0-1)

After back-to-back 5-1 losses, Jokerit needed a boost. The Finns are unlikely to be dragged into any kind of fight to secure a playoff place, but Lauri Marjamaki’s team could use a run of consistent form to take it into the playoffs. Away to lowly Red Star, Jokerit at least managed a win — but may feel that its offense deserved more reward from the 44 shots it fired at Dmitry Shikin.

The visitor controlled the game from start to finish but had to contend with the shock of going behind in the eighth minute. Ethan Werek was the Dragons’ scorer, circling into the center of the zone and collecting the rebound from his first shot before putting a wrister beyond Samuel Jukuri from between the hash marks.

Jokerit tied the game in the second period. David Sklenicka’s point shot thudded into Shikin’s pads, and Markus Hannikainen reacted first to lift the rebound over the goalie. At the other end, Red Star mustered just two shots at Jukuri as the Finns bossed the play.

However, there was still the question of how to beat Shikin. He continually rebuffed Jokerit’s offense and his defense was on hand to do a lot of the ugly work in front of him. But a third-period power play made the difference, opening the space for ‘Mr Helsinki’ to go to work. Brian O’Neill showed just why he’s such a cult figure in the Finnish capital with a slaloming surge through the home defense before finding the way past the goalie and bagging the winner.

Dynamo’s streak ends at Torpedo

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 3 Dynamo Moscow 2 SO (2-1, 0-0, 0-1, 0-0, 1-0)

Dynamo’s five-game winning streak came to a halt after Anton Shenfeld settled this game in a shoot-out. The home team improves to four wins from five as it continues its playoff preparations.

The Muscovites arrived full of confidence after a 5-1 thrashing of Jokerit in the previous game. Oscar Lindberg scored twice in that one, and he got an assist in his first shift here when he contributed to Daniil Tarasov’s opener after just 15 seconds.

However, Torpedo was ahead midway through the frame. Chris Terry tied it up — eight goals and 15 points in 14 games for him — before leading scorer Damir Zhafyarov made it 2-1.

The second period was goalless, but at the start of the third Dynamo got another quick goal. Lindberg was involved again, as was Tarasov, but Magnus Paajarvi Svensson was the scorer. The teams were deadlocked for the rest of regulation. Overtime and even the first five rounds of penalty shots could not separate them, but Shenfeld won it in the first round of sudden death.

Rapid double gives CSKA the edge

HC Sochi 0 CSKA Moscow 2 (0-0, 0-0, 0-2)

CSKA has enjoyed its games against Sochi this season. This was the Army Men’s fourth win over the Black Sea team, and its second shut-out. Indeed, the aggregate score comes to 16-2 in CSKA’s favor, highlighting the distance between the elite and the strugglers in the Western Conference.

However, those stats don’t tell the tale of Friday’s game. Although, eventually, CSKA got the win, Sochi frustrated the Conference leader before falling in the closing stages. In the first period, rookie goalie Ivan Kulbakov was the key figure. With CSKA dominating play, the 24-year-old Belarusian kept the scores level. The second, though, was a far more even affair — nine shots apiece and an equitable share of possession.

The prompted the visitor to up the tempo at the start of the third, and Sochi could not live with it. Two goals in 14 seconds decided the outcome of this game, with Maxim Mamin breaking the deadlock on 41:08 before John Gilmour doubled the lead on 41:22. After that, it was plain sailing for the visitor as it recorded a third straight victory.

Severstal pushes Spartak out of the top eight

Severstal Cherepovets 5 Spartak Moscow 2 (1-0, 2-0, 2-2)

Severstal moved a step closer to securing its playoff place — and increased the pressure on Spartak at the same time. The visitor arrived in Cherepovets in eighth place but knew there was little margin for error with Vityaz just two points behind. However, after failing to take its chances in the first period, Spartak fell away in the second and slipped to a damaging defeat.

Photo: 05.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Severstal (Cherepovets) - Spartak (Moscow)

The early exchanges favored the visitor and the first period saw the Red-and-Whites outshoot Severstal 15-7. However, it was Yegor Morozov who opened the scoring for the Steelmen in the 15th minute.

That goal seemed to hit Spartak hard. When the teams returned for the second period the play was dominated by Severstal. And, unlike the first period, domination led to goals. Two Spartak penalties — the first two in the game — brought two power play goals as Daniil Vovchenko and Alexander Petunin steered Severstal towards a commanding lead.

Spartak rallied at the start of the third, with Yakov Rylov getting a power play goal in reply before Lukas Radil made it a one-goal game with 12 minutes to play. But the knock-out blow came from Petunin after 55 minutes and Vladislav Kodola put a fifth into the empty net as Severstal climbs to sixth in the West, six points clear of the battle for a playoff place.

Bardakov’s double downs Dinamo

Vityaz Moscow Region 3 Dinamo Minsk 1 (0-0, 2-1, 1-0)

While Spartak was losing in Cherepovets, Vityaz was returning to eighth place with victory at home to Dinamo Minsk. Two goals from Zakhar Bardakov led this performance; Vityaz goes in front of Spartak by virtue of more wins in regulation time and also closes to within three points of the Belarusians as the battle intensifies in the closing weeks of the season.

Photo: 05.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - Dinamo (Minsk)

The first period was goalless, although both teams could claim they had the better of the play. Minsk took more shots, but also faced more penalties, which enabled Vityaz to enjoy a territorial and possession advantage.

But the key currency here is goals, and it was clear that the first one would be crucial. Enter Bardakov, a player who has grown in maturity this season as he sampled senior international action and a World Junior campaign. Right now, he’s flying: today he scored for the fifth game in a row and his productive streak is now worth 7 (6+1) points. In that time, he has helped Vityaz collect five of the 10 points on offer — a valuable return at the sharp end of the season.

The game’s competitive character did not slip either, and a fight between Ilya Usov (Dinamo) and Artyom Ivanyuzhenkov (Vityaz) quickened the pulse before a separate incident saw Adam Almquist sent to the box. On the power play, Vityaz extended its lead through Alexander Dergachyov, but Shane Prince replied almost immediately to keep the game very much alive.

The third period saw Vityaz shading the play as it looked for a goal to kill off the game. However, the final blow did not come until the last minute when Dinamo was already playing with six skaters. Bardakov got his second of the game, into an empty net, to seal a result that lifts his time back into the top eight.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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