Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The day’s most eye-catching action came in Ufa and Helsinki. Both games were nine-goal thrillers: Salavat Yulaev blew a 4-0 lead before edging Kunlun 5-4, while Jokerit squandered a 3-1 advantage to lose in overtime against Dynamo Moscow. There was another fightback in Kazan, where Spartak rallied from 0-2 to win in overtime and give its playoff push a huge boost. Spartak’s recovery keeps Dinamo Minsk waiting to confirm its playoff place: despite an overtime win over Traktor, the Bison still need one more win to book a top-eight finish. CSKA suffered a surprise 1-4 loss at home to Dinamo Riga, and SKA went down 2-1 at Lokomotiv. Elsewhere, Vladimir Butuzov completed 100 points in the KHL as Amur won 3-0 at home to Neftekhimik, while Avangard got an overtime verdict at Torpedo.

100 points for Butuzov

Amur Khabarovsk 3 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 0 (2-0, 1-0, 0-0)

Amur quickly avenged its overtime loss to Neftekhimik on Thursday, blanking its visitor in Saturday’s rematch to finish its home season on a high. The Tigers set out on a final road trip next week, visiting Helsinki, Riga and Minsk as it contests ninth place in the East with Sibir.

The home team made a fast start and went in front in the third minute through Kirill Rasskazov. The forward was making his 300th KHL appearance and celebrated in style. Vladimir Butuzov doubled the lead during the first period when he scored his 50th KHL goal. And the forward had more to celebrate in the second with an assist as Dmitry Arkhipov made it 3-0. That was Butuzov’s 50th helper and brought up 100 points in the KHL.

At the other end, Evgeny Alikin stopped 24 shots and recorded his first shut-out of the season.

Dragons rally from 0-4 but Ufa finishes the job

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 5 Kunlun Red Star 4 (3-0, 1-2, 1-2)

Three goals in 73 seconds set Salavat Yulaev on the way to victory over the Eastern Conference’s basement team — but instead of cruising to a comfortable win, the home team had to rely on a late deciding goal after a huge Red Star fightback.

Sakari Manninen opened the scoring on 5:43 with a power play goal when his shot looped off a visiting defenseman and deceived Jeremy Smith in the Red Star net. Then, on 6:06, Danil Bashkirov smashed home a shot from center of the zone to double the advantage. Smith’s last act came 50 seconds later, stopping efforts from Pavel Koledov and Eduard Gimatov but powerless to prevent Alexander Kadeikin adding a third.

In the second period, Kadeikin’s second of the game made it 4-0 to Ufa and seemingly killed the game. However, late in the frame the visitor potted two quick goals to give itself a chance in the final session. Sean Collins forced home the rebound after a Hunter Shinkaruk shot was parried, then a Ryan Sproul point shot enabled Spencer Foo to make it 2-4.

Then came the big turnaround. Jason Fram scored twice in the first three minutes of the final stanza to tie the game and leave the home team looking far from comfortable. His first goal was awarded after a coach’s challenge: Tomi Lamsa’s claim that Daniil Tarasov was impeded on the crease did not bear video scrutiny. The equalizer was a delight, with Fram collecting a drop pass from Foo and producing a top-quality snipe angled home from the left-hand circle.

Suddenly, the unthinkable seemed possible. Salavat Yulaev had to dig deep to avoid embarrassment. Late in the game, Koledov’s slap shot made it 5-4 and saw his team over the line — just — for a seventh successive win. But this game will be remembered for the brave fightback as much as for the eventual victor.

Jaskin sets Czech scoring record

Jokerit Helsinki 4 Dynamo Moscow 5 OT (0-1, 3-0, 1-3, 0-1)

Ufa wasn’t the only place to see a roller-coaster of a game on Saturday. In Finland, Jokerit and Dynamo put on a fantastic show before the visitor snapped a 4-4 tie to win it overtime.

The three previous meetings between the teams each brought plenty of goals, but had finished with one-sided scorelines. This one was different, with Dynamo coming from behind twice to save themselves in regulation before Dmitry Kagarlitsky grabbed the decider. Along the way, Dmitrij Jaskin scored his 36th goal of the season, setting a new record for a Czech player in a KHL regular season.

There was little sign of all that excitement in the first period though. Chances were at a premium until the last minute, when Vladimir Bryukvin redirected an Andrei Sergeyev shot past Janis Kalnins to open the scoring for Dynamo. In the second, though, Jokerit hit back to open a 3-1 lead. Midway through, Iiro Pakarinen tucked away a backhand finish on the power play to tie the scores. Then David Sklenicka scored twice late in the frame to give the Finns a solid advantage to take to the third.

But the visitor roared back after the break. Magnus Paajarvi Svensson reduced the deficit before, with a two-man advantage, Dynamo tied it up in the 47th minute when Jaskin bundled the puck into an open net.

Jokerit responded with another great solo goal from Brian O’Neill and it looked like Mr Helsinki had won it for the home team until Sergeyev’s long shot tied the scores 27 seconds before the hooter. In overtime, a penalty on Viktor Loov put the pressure on the home team and Kagarlitsky grabbed the winner on 61:48.

Bailen menaces former colleagues

Dinamo Minsk 3 Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 OT (0-0, 1-1, 1-1, 1-0)

Dinamo overcame two goals from former player Nick Bailen to secure an overtime win against Traktor. However, the result was not quite enough to clinch a playoff place, with Spartak’s win in Kazan ensuring Belarus must wait a little longer.

It was a former Minsk favorite, Nick Bailen, who almost derailed Craig Woodcroft’s team here. The Canadian-born defenseman, who now has a Belarusian passport and plays for the national team, scored twice in this game to earn Traktor a point. Bailen’s first effort came in the 34th minute, cancelling out Zack Mitchell’s opener for Dinamo. Then he put the visitor ahead midway through the third period.

However, the home team responded. Stepan Falkovsky tied it up in the 57th minute to take the Bison into overtime for the second time in successive games. Last time, it needed a shoot-out to win at Jokerit, but tonight things were finished more quickly when Shane Prince delivered an overtime winner.

Kostin pots overtime winner

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 Avangard Omsk 3 OT (0-1, 1-0, 1-1, 0-1)

Torpedo played its last home game of the regular season and welcomed Avangard to Nizhny Novogorod in what could be a dress rehearsal for the playoffs. As things stand in the East, the two teams would meet in the first round.

With both teams keen to put down a marker ahead of post season, a competitive game developed. Despite a slow start, the opening goal arrived in the seventh minute when Maxim Chudinov punished a defensive error from the home team with a well-placed effort from the blue line. Torpedo had two chances to tie it up on the power play but could not find a way through in the first period.

After the intermission, the home team found a way back into the game. After 33 minutes, Andy Miele picked out the perfect pass for Ivan Chekhovich and the forward, one of the revelations of the current season, potted his 15th of the campaign. At the end of the frame, Torpedo had a double power play and early in the third even got to play 6-on-3 on a delayed penalty, but could not get ahead.

However, once things got back to 5-on-4, Torpedo did indeed make it 2-1 with Mikhail Varnakov finding the net. But Avangard responded to convert a 5-on-3 power play of its own through Oliwer Kaski and grabbed a winner in overtime when Klim Kostin collected a loose puck in his own zone and streaked down the ice to beat Pyotr Kochetkov.

Spartak battles to vital victory

Ak Bars Kazan 2 Spartak Moscow 3 OT (1-0, 0-0, 1-2, 0-1)

Spartak rallied from 0-2 down with two goals in the last 10 minutes to snatch a vital victory in its playoff push. Success here opens a three-point advantage over ninth-placed Vityaz, although the Red-and-Whites have played one game more.

Photo: 20.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Spartak (Moscow)

Spartak, in need of points to bolster its playoff push, began the game at a high tempo and put plenty of pressure on Adam Reideborn’s net in the first five minutes. But it was Ak Bars that took the lead, albeit in fortuitous fashion. Stephane Da Costa tried to steer the puck towards the slot but there was little danger until Alexander Nikishin stumbled as he jockeyed for position with Viktor Tikhonov. The defenseman’s stick deflected Da Costa’s feed beyond Julius Hudacek and Spartak was behind.

The Red-and-Whites came to Kazan knowing that every point counts in the race for a playoff spot: failure to win would open the door for Vityaz to move back into eighth place when it goes to Jokerit on Monday. As a result, the visitor powered forward in search of goals and left the Ak Bars offense struggling for opportunities. But dominance on the shot count did not translate into pucks in the net and, after 40 minutes, the home team maintained its 1-0 lead despite playing much of the game in front of its own goal.

Then the start of the third period brought a first power play of the game for Ak Bars. Mikael Wikstrand’s wrister from the point looked to be heading off target, but a flick off the gloves of Spartak D-man Yakov Rylov took it inside the post and doubled the home lead.

The visitor roared back. A power play midway through the third enabled Anatoly Nikontsev to reduce the deficit, then the forward was instrumental in Robin Hanzl’s tying goal with two minutes to play. The Red-and-Whites still had to survive one more PK before the game went to overtime, but in the extras Nikontsev and Hanzl combined to create a chance for Rylov to fire home the game-winning goal.

Kraskovsky bags a late winner

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 SKA St. Petersburg 1 (0-1, 1-0, 1-0)

Lokomotiv posted a third successive victory after edging past SKA in a clash between two teams who are already secure in their playoff spots. Indeed, these two could well meet in the second round of post season and today’s result means they have shared two wins apiece this regular season.

Photo: 20.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

SKA made the livelier start to the game, but took the lead in surprising circumstances with a short-handed goal from Joonas Kemppainen. However, in the second period, Lokomotiv levelled it up — both in terms of the balance of play, and the score, thanks to Rushan Rafikov’s goal midway through the session.

For a long time, it seemed that the action was heading into overtime. The teams traded chances in the third but could not force a breakthrough until the last minute. Then Yegor Korshkov found a gem of a pass and Pavel Kraskovsky took advantage to win it for the Railwaymen with 26 seconds left on the clock.

Dinamo shocks CSKA

CSKA Moscow 1 Dinamo Riga 4 (0-0, 1-3, 0-1)

At the start of February, rock-bottom Riga came to Western Conference leader CSKA and almost produced a sensation. Written off by almost everyone before the game, the Latvians led 3-1 at the second intermission before the Army Men hit back to win in overtime. Flash in the pan? Not at all. Almost three weeks later, Dinamo was back ... and did it again!

Photo: 20.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. CSKA (Moscow) - Dinamo (Riga)

Three magical minutes either side of the 30-minute mark saw the visitor fire in three unanswered goals. First, Reece Scarlett got on the end of a passing move and rifled home a snipe from the right-hand circle. Then CSKA got into trouble trying to bring the puck out of its zone and Gennady Stolyarov — once a CSKA player — made it 2-0. Rihards Bukarts then made it 3-0. The home team pulled one back through Nikita Korostelyov and, once again, Dinamo reached the 40-minute mark with a 3-1 advantage.

The last time these teams met here, CSKA recovered from the same situation. Today, though, Dinamo was not going to let the Army Men back into the game. Chances were rare at either end, but any hope of a home fightback was extinguished by an empty net goal from Miks Indrasis.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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