Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Spartak Moscow is the 16th and final team to secure a playoff place. The Red-and-Whites thrashed Sochi 6-1 and then saw Vityaz fail to win in Helsinki, ending its hopes of breaking the top eight. In the race to top the regular season table, Ak Bars and CSKA both picked up victories. Dynamo Moscow hit Avtomobilist for six — and in double quick time — while Amur won an 11-goal thriller in Minsk.

Magnitka fails to break down Ivannikov

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 0 (0-0, 0-0, 1-0)

These two times entered the game with very different objectives. For Magnitka, destined to finish either third or fourth in the East, this week is about preparing for the playoffs, with the focus on fitness as much as results. For Neftekhimik, meanwhile, there is a battle with Kunlun Red Star to stay out of the basement.

The teams’ previous meetings this season produced plenty of goals — 22 in three games up to now, with 10 in the most recent encounter. Today, though, was the complete opposite. Although the rival goalies, Evgeny Ivannikov and Vasily Koshechkin, had work to do, the game remained goalless through 40 minutes. Metallurg’s Igor Shvyryov was closest to breaking the deadlock when he hit the crossbar in the second period; later the visitor got the puck in the net, but unfairly, according to the video review.

In the third, Neftekhimik finally scored a legitimate goal. Marat Khairullin dispossessed Grigory Dronov and skated in on Koshechkin to make it 1-0. That was enough to win it as Ivannikov posted his third shut-out of the season.

Army Men shut out Severstal again

Severstal Cherepovets 0 CSKA Moscow 3 (0-0, 0-2, 0-1)

CSKA blanked Severstal for the second time this season as the Steelmen concluded their regular season campaign. The home team knew that the pressure was off here after defeat for Vityaz last night guaranteed Andrei Razin’s team a playoff spot. And, with the Army Men looking to keep pace with Ak Bars in the race for the Continental Cup, the visitor changed up its roster following back-to-back home losses. Lars Johansson returned between the piping ahead of Alexander Sharychenkov.

The visitor took control of the game from the start and may well feel the first period performance deserved a lead at the intermission. However, Severstal dug deep — particularly on the PK — to keep the scoreboard blank. Goals came late in the middle frame, with Nikita Korolestyov and Sergei Andronov opening a 2-0 lead that always looked too big for the home team to recover.

That was how it proved. Severstal could not get back into the game in the third and Maxim Shalunov had the final word with a last-minute goal to completed a 3-0 victory. And, for the fifth time in a row, CSKA left Cherepovets without allowing a goal.

Loko keeps up winning form

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 1 (2-1, 2-0, 0-0)

David Nemirovsky signed an extension to his contract as Torpedo’s head coach in the build-up to this game. The rumor mill linked Nemirovsky with a couple of the team’s Eastern Conference rivals and, with a playoff campaign looming, the club’s management was keen to resolve any doubts about the long-term future.

However, stability off the ice did not immediately translate to success on it. Lokomotiv powered to victory here, with the Railwaymen looking to steam into post season in top form. This was a fourth straight win for Andrei Skabelka’s team.

The first period scoring came in a rush — three goals in three minutes midway through the frame. Yegor Korshkov put Loko in front, but Damir Zhafyarov tied it up almost immediately. Both goals came from unforced errors, and it wasn’t long before another blunder from Artyom Mikheyev presented Andre Petersson with the chance to restore the home lead.

Early in the second period, Nikolai Kovalenko extended his productive streak to four games when he made it 3-1. Then, during the first power play of the game, Kovalenko hit the post and saw Denis Alexeyev score moments later. That was the end of the scoring: Lokomotiv looked more likely to extend its lead, Torpedo struggled to make inroads against a disciplined opponent. The home team looks well-placed to impress in post season.

Ak Bars closes on regular season title

Ak Bars Kazan 4 Barys Nur-Sultan 3 OT (0-1, 1-1, 2-1, 1-0)

Both teams had plenty to play for here. Ak Bars is looking to secure the Continental Cup by topping the regular season table, and needs points to stay ahead of CSKA. Barys, although secure in its playoff spot, is keen to move up the table and avoid returning here in the first round of post season for what would seem to be a daunting task against the East’s runaway leader.

The first period saw Ak Bars enjoy the better of the play in most areas, but the only goal went to the visitor. Two needless penalties left the home time with just three skaters and Barys took advantage of those lapses when Darren Dietz almost went coast-to-coast before setting up Curtis Valk for the opening goal.

That was the last meaningful action of the first period, and it shifted the balance of play. In the second, Barys enjoyed a far greater share of the action and extended its lead in the 32nd minute when Dietz scored a goal to add to his earlier helper. The visitor looked to increase its lead but was caught on the counter when Nigel Dawes won possession and created a chance for Viktor Tikhonov to reduce the deficit.

In the third frame, Ak Bars once again enjoyed the better of the play but needed time to turn that pressure into goals. Eventually, Kirill Petrov set up Dmitry Yudin to tie the game in the 51st minute, only to see Phil Varone restore the Barys lead within a minute. This time, though, Ak Bars responded immediately with Petrov scoring himself to send the game into overtime. The extras did not take long, with Artyom Galimov potting the winner in the first minute. The home team remains two points clear at the top of the table, Barys climbs to sixth thanks to its bonus point.

Li Leads Sibir to victory

Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 Sibir Novosibirsk 4 (0-2, 2-1, 0-1)

Three points from Oleg Li made the difference in Chelyabinsk as Sibir looks to end the season strongly despite missing out on the playoffs. Traktor, meanwhile, seems destined to finish in fifth regardless of its remaining results.

Sibir opened the scoring in the seventh minute thanks to Li, and the visitor extended its lead late in the first period when Daniil Romantsev grabbed a shorthanded goal. Li turned provider early in the second as Vyacheslav Ushenin made it 3-0, but Traktor finally shook off its early lethargy and pulled goal back through Tomas Hyka.

There was more to come for the home team, with Nick Bailen making it a one-goal game late in the middle session. Bailen extended his productive streak to four games with an assist on Hyka’s goal and reinforced that run with a power play goal after Sibir captain Viktor Komarov was ejected from the game. The third period began cautiously, but when Hyka went to the box, Li got his second of the afternoon and sealed the win for Sibir.

Six goals in 22 minutes as Dynamo powers to victory

Dynamo Moscow 6 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 0 (4-0, 2-0, 0-0)

Dynamo is finishing the season on a high. This crushing victory made it five straight wins, and the Blue-and-Whites have won 10 of their last 11, with only a shoot-out loss at Torpedo spoiling the sequence.

Photo: 23.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Dynamo (Moscow) - Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg)

Life is less fun for Avtomobilist at the moment, although Bill Peters managed to snap a two-game losing streak with a hard-fought shoot-out verdict over Sochi last time out. And the visitor’s problems were cruelly exposed at the start of this encounter. With less than 10 minutes played, Dynamo led 3-0 after goals from Ivan Igumnov, Andrei Sergeyev and Andrei Mironov. The latter two goals came as Nikita Tryamkin sat out a double minor penalty and the home team took full advantage.

That ended Vladislav Gross’ time in net for Avto and brought Leonid Fomin onto the ice for the first time this season. But the change did not slow Dynamo. Another power play helped Dmitrij Jaskin extend his scoring record just before the intermission, then Vladislav Yefremov and Ivan Muranov added two in 18 seconds at the start of the second.

Dynamo scored six goals in 21:51 — only three teams have done it faster in the KHL — and the game was decided. That didn’t stop the home team looking for more goals, but Fomin recovered from his early jitters to make three big saves and spare his team further embarrassment. At the other end, though, Alexander Yeryomenko was relatively untroubled as he recorded his 47th KHL shut-out and his fourth this season.

Spartak clinches playoff place

Spartak Moscow 6 HC Sochi 1 (1-0, 2-0, 3-1)

With a crushing victory over Sochi, Spartak confirmed its place in this year’s playoffs. This home win, coupled with another defeat for Vityaz in Helsinki, guarantees a top-eight finish for the Red-and-Whites and maintains Oleg Znarok’s record of not missing a post season since the inaugural KHL campaign.

Photo: 23.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Spartak (Moscow) - HC Sochi (Sochi)

Sergei Shirokov led the way for the home team, scoring twice to move to 22 goals for the season. That equals his personal best in the KHL, and the best return for a Spartak player in this league. Strike partner Jori Lehtera also scored two, and Artyom Fyodorov was on target as well as Spartak opened a 5-0 lead.

Sochi managed a consolation effort thanks to Igor Rudenkov midway through the third period, but this was absolutely Spartak’s day and Martin Bakos confirmed it when he added a sixth late on, scoring on one of his former clubs.

Then attention turned to Finland, where anything less than a Vityaz victory would end the playoff race in Spartak’s favor.

Jokerit crushes Vityaz hopes

Jokerit Helsinki 3 Vityaz Moscow Region 2 (1-0, 1-2, 1-0)

Vityaz went to Helsinki this week looking for the wins that would keep its playoff push alive. Inside, two defeats in two days ended the team’s playoff hopes. The damage was done yesterday with a 1-5 loss; Tuesday saw a stronger performance but no improvement in the result and, with two games left, all 16 playoff places are occupied.

Yesterday, a slow start cost Vityaz and it was a similar story this time as Jokerit took the initiative from the start. Even though the visiting players were well aware that Spartak had won — and therefore only victory would keep the campaign alive — they were unable to make early inroads. Gradually, the pressure paid off: Jordan Schroeder opened the scoring in the 16th minute and at the first intermission, things looked bleak for Vityaz.

However, the second period brought a fightback. Helped by a couple of power plays, Vityaz started to get its game rolling, with Danila Moiseyev and Mattias Tedenby taking advantage to give the Podolsk team a 2-1 lead. But another power play chance late in the frame went horribly wrong and ended with Julius Juntilla scoring a shorthanded goal to tie the game eight seconds before the intermission.

There was a cautious start to the third period, but Zakhar Bardakov suffered from the impetuousness of youth and was penalized for hooking. The power play saw Niklas Jensen wire a wrist shot into the net to restore Jokerit’s lead. Vityaz tried to save its season in the closing minutes, but Janis Kalnins secured the win for the Finns and guarantees a fifth-placed finish for the team from Helsinki.

Amur edges a thriller in Minsk

Dinamo Minsk 5 Amur Khabarovsk 6 (3-2, 1-3, 1-1)

There was action aplenty in Minsk as Amur edged an 11-goal thriller against Dinamo. Despite seeing their playoffs hopes end, the Tigers have now won three of their last four games and are enjoying the final days of the season.

This time, the game was full of incident from the first face-off. Amur’s Gleb Koryagin took a penalty in the second minute and while he sat in the box he saw a goal at both ends. Michal Jordan’s shorthanded tally opened the scoring, but Denis Mosalyov tied it up almost immediately.

In the 16th minute, Denis Golubev restored Amur’s advantage, but Minsk responded with a burst of four goals either side of the intermission. Zack Mitchell and Francis Pare gave the home team a lead to take into the break, then Pavel Varfolomeyev struck on the power play early in the second period.

Amur responded with three unanswered goals of its own, though, turning the game around to lead at the midway stage. Vladimir Butuzov, Alexander Polunin and Hynek Zohorna found the net. The visitor’s slender advantage was erased by Alexei Protas in the third, but Valentin Pyanov potted the winner in the 55th minute.

Ufa keeps up winning streak

Dinamo Riga 1 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 (0-2, 1-0, 0-1)

Salavat Yulaev stretched its winning run to eight games as it moved ahead of Metallurg into third place in the East. The Ufa team still has a chance of pipping Avangard to the Chernyshev Division title, although it has to make up three points in two games to achieve that.

In Riga, the visitor took control of the game in the first period. Sakari Manninen opened the scoring in the eighth minute, with Teemu Hartikainen’s assist extending his productive streak to five games. Late in the frame, Pavel Koledov made it 2-0, adding to his game-winner in the barn-burner against Kunlun Red Star on Saturday.

Dinamo, though, is determined to battle to the very end of a difficult season. Following Saturday’s 4-1 stunner at CSKA, the Latvians still have self-belief. Martins Dzierkals pulled once back midway through the second period and Ufa had to stay alert to finish the job. However, a power play goal from Dmitry Kugryshev early in the third eased Salavat’s nerves.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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