Andy Potts Andy Potts
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It was a big day in the West, with Jokerit become the fifth team to secure its playoff place despite losing in a shoot-out to Dinamo Minsk. CSKA clinched top place in the Conference due to SKA’s loss at home to Dynamo Moscow, while Spartak’s win at Torpedo lifted it to eighth ahead of Vityaz, which lost at home to Metallurg. In the East, the big game saw a last second winner for Salavat Yulaev in the Green Derby against Ak Bars. Avangard won at Sibir and Barys moved ahead of Avtomobilist. Neftekhimik climbed off the foot of the table thanks to an overtime win at Amur.

Neftekhimik wins at last

Amur Khabarovsk 1 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2 OT (0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 0-1)

Neftekhimik snapped its seven-game losing streak with an overtime win at Amur — but needed an element of good fortune to get the decisive goal. It came when Libor Hudacek and Marat Khairullin launched a two-on-one break during the extras. Khairullin’s attempted return pass to Hudacek was almost intercepted by Michal Jordan, but the Tigers’ Czech defenseman could only steer the puck into his own net.

Earlier, Amur took the lead late in the second period. The goal had been coming for some time, with the home team gaining three power plays in a row before Pavel Turbin’s point shot found the net. Neftekhimik was close to tying it up before the intermission, but Pavel Poryadin’s effort hit the post.

In the third period, Neftekhimik killed one more penalty then began to put pressure on the Amur net. That effort paid off late in the game when Vladimir Galuzin’s shot rebounded for Rafael Bikmullin to make it 1-1.

Sibir fires blanks as home season ends

Sibir Novosibirsk 0 Avangard Omsk 3 (0-1, 0-0, 0-2)

Sibir’s final home game of the season was a Siberian derby against Chernyshev Division rival Avangard. However, with the home team already out of playoff contention and the visitor content to travel without high-profile players including Ilya Kovalchuk, Jiri Sekac and Nail Yakupov, the encounter lacked some of the intensity of earlier clashes between these two.

However, for Hawks forward Reid Boucher, Sibir remains an opponent he loves to see. He opened the scoring in the fourth minute and took his personal tally to five goals in four games against the Novosibirsk outfit. Unfortunately for the American, he had little chance to add to that collection; an injury midway through the first period limited him to just five shifts in today’s game.

Boucher’s departure lightened the load for the home defense, and gradually Sibir began to generate chances. Alexander Sharov and Oleg Li both tested Simon Hrubec, but there was no cutting edge and Avangard managed to seal the win late in the game. Kirill Semyonov and Yegor Chinakhov extended the Hawks’ lead late in the game, while a disallowed Sibir goal in the final moments summed up the team’s day. Not only did Avangard complete its fourth win of the season over Nikolai Zavarukhin’s men, it also secured its third shut-out in this fixture.

The game also marked Vladimir Pervushin’s farewell to pro hockey. The 34-year-old forward began his career in his native Omsk and finished with five seasons at Sibir. However, injury problems during the current campaign prompted him to announce his retirement at New Year. The teams dedicated today’s encounter to a distinguished servant of both clubs.

Dietz delivers victory for Barys

Barys Nur-Sultan 2 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 1 (1-0, 0-0, 1-1)

Game between these two have been tight affairs this season, with each of the previous three meetings finishing 3-2. Today, once again, we saw a one-goal game, and the 2-1 victory for the home team means Barys and Avto share two wins apiece from their head-to-head encounters this term.

The result also lifts Barys above today’s opponent, but things might have ended very differently if the Motormen’s Peter Holland had not been denied an early opener due to interference on home goalie Henrik Karlsson. Barys took maximum advantage, quickly converting its first power play of the game when Roman Starchenko collected Phil Varone’s diagonal feed, deceived defenseman Korbinian Holzer and beat Jakub Kovar.

In the second period, Barys continued to look the stronger team but was unable to extend its lead. Then, early in the third, Avto tied it up. Alexander Shchemerov returned to the Avtomobilist team on Tuesday, making his first KHL appearance in almost three years. Today he scored his first goal in the league since Sep. 13, 2017.

That goal could not save the visitor, though. It took just three minutes for Barys to regain the lead when captain Darren Dietz found the net with a point shot. The Motormen fought hard to get another goal but could not beat Karlsson. Following this loss, Avto drops to eighth in the East.

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 Ak Bars Kazan 2 (0-0, 1-1, 2-1)

There was last-second drama in Ufa as Salavat Yulaev snatched victory in the fourth edition of the Green Derby. A power play goal from Alexander Kadeikin stopped the clock on 59:59, giving the home team a 3-2 verdict and stretching its winning run to six games.

Photo: 18.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) - Ak Bars (Kazan)

On the day that Salavat Yulaev announced it was extending its contract with head coach Tomi Lamsa, this was a fitting way for the Finn to celebrate. Early in the season, there were doubts about this team — and back-to-back 1-4 losses against Ak Bars underlined the sense that Ufa was not playing the hockey that was expected of it. Since then, though, Lamsa’s team has settled into its rhythm and turned into a formidable force in the East. Today’s victory was last eye-catching than the 7-3 scoreline when the conference leader last visited Ufa, but the resilience of this performance is perhaps a better guide to the state of the organization ahead of the playoffs.

Both teams put everything into this game from the first seconds. Ufa’s Finnish trio attempted to overpower Adam Reideborn in the visitor’s net but encountered resolute defense from Ak Bars. At the other end, Juha Metsola had to be at his best to stop dangerous efforts from Stephane Da Costa and Mikael Wikstrand.

At the start of the second period, the home team stepped up its game and got its reward. Evgeny Lisovets’ pass unpicked the Ak Bars defense and Vyacheslav Solodukhin’s finish earned him his 100th point in the KHL. However, the lead was short-lived, and Da Costa cemented his status as Ak Bars’ leading scorer when he tied the game in the 30th minute.

A hard-hitting, competitive third period saw the teams match each other for long periods. The breakthrough came in the 53rd minute when Salavat went in front once again after defenseman Philip Larsen made an effective link-up with the forwards. Dmitry Kvartalnov challenged the goal, but the video review gave Larsen the thumbs-up and Ak Bars lost its time-out.

Late in the third, an Ak Bars power play enabled Danis Zaripov to tie the game, but a penalty on Dmitry Voronkov in the 59th minute cost the visitor. With no time-out available to calm the situation, Ak Bars had to face up to the onslaught as best it could, and Kadeikin successfully steered a flying puck beyond Riedeborn to give the home team the verdict.

Railwaymen ease past Riga

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 5 Dinamo Riga 1 (1-0, 3-1, 1-0)

Lokomotiv secured a top-four finish in the West this season thanks to a routine victory at home to bottom club Dinamo. The Latvians latest loss, meanwhile, means that Riga will finish at the foot of the overall KHL standings, unable to reach Eastern Conference strugglers Kunlun Red Star and Neftekhimik.

The Railwaymen opened the scoring in the eighth minute through Teemu Pulkkinen, with the Finn managing to get his shot away even as he fell in front of the Dinamo net. Early in the second, penalties for Reece Scarlett and Artur Kayumov had the teams playing four-on-four for two minutes. Lokomotiv made the most of that, scoring two goals in the space of a minute thanks to Daniil Misyul and Denis Barantsev.

Denis Alexeyev extended the home lead to 4-0 midway through the second, but Dinamo got one back before the intermission when Roberts Bukarts struck on the power play. However, that merely interrupted Loko’s flow: early in the third Nikita Cherepanov made it 5-1, chasing Janis Voris from the net and bringing Bruno Bruveris to the crease for his second KHL appearance. The 18-year-old kept his goal intact for the closing minutes as Loko recorded as comfortable win.

Severstal too strong for Kunlun

Severstal Cherepovets 3 Kunlun Red Star 1 (1-0, 1-0, 1-1)

Severstal moves closer to securing a playoff place thanks to a home win over Red Star. However, the Steelmen had to soak up plenty of pressure from the Dragons before claiming two more valuable points.

The visitor had the better of the first period but went into the intermission trailing to a Vadim Kudako effort 30 seconds before the hooter. In the second period, it was a similar story, with Severstal again finding it hard to impose itself on the game but getting a second goal thanks to Nikita Makeyev.

Kunlun had a goal ruled out soon after that, with Tyler Wong penalized for interference on home goalie Vladislav Podyapolsky as he followed up a Spencer Foo shot. The visitor began the third period with a lingering grievance that was deepened when Kirill Adamchuk fired home a third goal for Severstal. That was the second goal from a defenseman for the home team.

Wong managed a legitimate goal — short-handed — to reawaken Red Star’s hopes, but Severstal held on, killing a couple of late penalties to secure the win. Podyapolsky finished with 43 saves.

Fyodorov grabs vital win for Spartak

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

Spartak’s battle for a playoff place continues, and today’s trip to Nizhny Novgorod brought two vital points thanks to two goals from Artyom Fyodorov.

Photo: 18.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) - Spartak (Moscow)

After losing at SKA last time out, the pressure was on Oleg Znarok’s team to keep pace with Vityaz in its race for eighth place. Znarok himself insisted that there were no doubts within the team, but outside the locker room many could be forgiven for questioning whether Spartak would make the playoffs.

Torpedo, already secure of a playoff place in the East, returned to action for the first time since the international break. But it was Spartak who made the faster start, taking a 2-0 lead thanks to a ninth-minute goal from Fyodorov and a second from Sergei Shirokov. An aggressive mentality and some skilful play gave the Red-and-Whites the edge, but a third goal in the opening session was whistled off by the officials and late in the frame Mikhail Varnakov halved the deficit to keep Torpedo in the hunt.

In the second period the game was more even. Fyodorov got his second of the game, but Andy Miele pulled one back for Torpedo. The remainder of the game was a struggle of contrasting styles, with Torpedo working to fashion scoring opportunities while Spartak relied on counterattacks to extend its lead. As the game wore on, the visitor relied more heavily on its defense and secured the two vital points in its playoff push.

Traktor snaps CSKA’s streak

CSKA Moscow 1 Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 (0-1, 0-0, 1-1)

CSKA guaranteed top spot in the West despite losing at home to Traktor. With SKA’s loss at home to Dynamo, nobody can now overtake the Army Men. The next challenge for Igor Nikitin’s team in regular season is to contest the overall title with Eastern Conference leader Ak Bars.

An early Traktor power play enabled Vyacheslav Osnovin to open the scoring in the third minute. Denis Bodrov’s assist on that goal takes him to 100 helpers in the KHL. The second period brought a flurry of penalties — including 2+10 for Bodrov — but no goals.

In the third, Nick Bailen scored early in the frame to extend Traktor’s lead. Midway through the period, a clash between Daniil Ilyin and Brendan Leipsic ushered in a spell of 4-on-4 hockey. During that time, CSKA pulled a goal back through Maxim Shalunov but Traktor was able to close out the win and snap the Army Men’s five-game winning streak.

Krikunov celebrated victory in 400th game

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

Vladimir Krikunov completed 400 games behind the Dynamo Moscow bench and celebrated that milestone with victory in St. Petersburg. It was also Dynamo’s fourth win over its Petersburg rival this season and secured a top four finish for the Blue-and-Whites.

The first period belonged to Juuso Hietanen. Dynamo’s Finnish defenseman scored twice to put his team in a commanding position. His first came right after the visitor managed to kill off a 3-on-5 penalty. Back at full strength, the Blue-and-Whites advanced and set up camp in the SKA zone; Hietanen received a pass along the blue line and thumped in a shot that beat Alexander Samonov. Then, Dynamo showed SKA how to execute a power play. Danila Galenyuk sat, and a combination from Vadim Shipachyov and Dmitrij Jaskin set up Hietanen for a similar shot ... with similar results.

By the middle of the second period, SKA was getting uneasy. The home team could not find its game and head coach Valery Bragin called a time-out in the hope of wresting the momentum from the visitor. The tactic got a reward almost immediately: a strong forecheck held Dynamo in its own zone and Malte Stromwall converted the rebound from Dinar Khafizullin’s shot to claim his third goal in two games.

That put the game right back in the balance, but Dynamo kept pushing for more goals. Hietanen came close to completing his hat-trick, only to by denied by Samonov’s shoulder. At the other end, SKA tried to tighten the screws on Alexander Yeryomenko’s net but failed to seriously extend the veteran Dynamo goalie. And, in the final seconds, an Oscar Lindberg empty net goal put the outcome beyond doubt.

Vityaz drops from top eight

Vityaz Moscow Region 1 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2 SO (0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

A shoot-out loss at the hands of Metallurg cost Vityaz its place in the playoff spot: after dropping a point in this game, the Moscow Region team was overtaken by Spartak and now sits one point adrift in ninth.

Photo: 18.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Defeat was hard to swallow for Vityaz. The home team made a strong start to the game and took a deserved lead midway through the game when Fyodor Malykhin converted a power play to make it 1-0. That lead endured until deep into the third period and might even have increased if Justin Danforth’s shot had crept inside the post rather than bouncing off the frame of the net.

Metallurg spent much of the third pushing for a tying goal — even if Magnitka is assured of its own playoff place, it understood well enough the need to play fair with the teams scrapping for a post season berth in the West. And, in the end, those efforts were rewarded with a tying goal from Nikolai Prokhorkin two-and-a-half minutes from the hooter. Prokhorkin played under Spartak’s current head coach when they were both at SKA, but this goal might prove to be the most important he has scored for Znarok.

For Vityaz, the misery was complete when even a penalty on Prokhorkin failed to give it the edge in overtime. And a toothless performance in the shoot-out meant that the home team failed to score again as Metallurg claimed the win.

Jokerit seals playoff place

Jokerit Helsinki 2 Dinamo Minsk 3 SO (0-1, 1-1, 1-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Jokerit confirmed its place in the 2021 playoffs despite suffering a shoot-out loss against Dinamo Minsk. A single point from this game, coupled with defeat for Vityaz, ensured that the Finns will go to post season once again.

For Dinamo, meanwhile, there was a point to prove in this game. Back at the start of the season, Jokerit failed to play its game in Minsk amid protests about the political situation in Belarus. Indignation over that cry-off inspired the visitor to action here, and the victory also boosts the Bison’s own playoff prospects.

In a first period of few chances, Dinamo went in front in the last minute thanks to Alexei Protas. In the second frame, John Norman tied the scores midway through but, once again, a last-minute marker put Minsk back in front. Rob Klinkhammer was the scorer and the goal was awarded following a bench challenge from Jokerit.

Early in the third, Viktor Loov made it 2-2 but Dinamo seized the initiative and dominated the remainder of the play. Janis Kalnins had to be at his best to keep the game level, with an impressive double save in the 51st minute representing the best of his 15 stops in the period. That took us to the extras and a power play for Jokerit, but it wasn’t until the shoot-out that we saw a winner as Dominik Furch denied each Finnish effort and helped Minsk get the victory.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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