Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The battle between CSKA and Ak Bars to top the regular season table will be decided on the final day of KHL play. Both teams went to shoot-outs on Thursday, but while the Army Men won at Lokomotiv, Ak Bars slipped at home to Metallurg. The Chernyshev Division title is also up for grabs after Salavat Yulaev won at Avangard, with Teemu Hartikainen scoring twice.

Last-minute Sedlak strike sinks Torpedo

Traktor Chelyabinsk 3 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 (1-0, 1-1, 1-1)

Traktor snapped a four-game losing streak and guaranteed itself fifth place in the Eastern Conference thanks to a last-minute winner at home to Torpedo. For the visit of an opponent that had lost its last three outings, Traktor welcomed back Vitaly Kravtsov but Lawrence Pilut missed out.

The game was hard fought from the opening moments, and neither team was able to take control of proceedings until the 12th minute when Lukas Sedlak set up Tomas Hyka for the opening goal. After that, Traktor had the better of the play but was unable to add to its lead in the first period.

Torpedo responded by livening up its offense at the start of the second and got its reward when Ivan Chekovich redirected a Chris Wideman shot for a power play goal. However, Traktor continued to create good chances and regained the lead when Alexei Byvaltsev got a clean breakaway on Andrei Tikhomirov to bag a short-handed goal. Sedlak thought he had added a third, but his effort crossed the line a fraction of a second after the hooter.

Both teams played cautiously at the start of the third period but gradually Torpedo unpicked the lock on Ivan Fedotov’s net. Mikhail Varnakov tied the scores once again with a skilful redirect of Ziyat Paygin’s shot and that seemed to be enough to secure overtime. However, in the last minute Sedlak marked his 28th birthday with the decisive goal. Torpedo’s defeat means it cannot finish higher than eighth in the East, giving it a playoff match-up against Ak Bars in round one.

Karlsson leads Barys to victory

Kunlun Red Star 0 Barys Nur-Sultan 3 (0-2, 0-0, 0-1)

Henrik Karlsson blanked Red Star to record his third shut-out of the season and send Kunlun to a fourth consecutive loss. The visiting goalie made 35 saves and when he was beaten by Tyler Wong midway through the second period, he saw the goal whistled off and the home forward cited for slashing.

By that time, Barys had a 2-0 lead. Darren Dietz opened the scoring in the fourth minute as the teams played 4-on-4, then Anton Sagadeyev increased the lead midway through the frame. Barys then had a goal whistled off for use of the hand as the Dragons struggled to keep pace early on.

The home team improved in the middle frame, but that disallowed Wong effort was the closest it came to reducing the deficit. And despite some Red Star chances early in the third, Karlsson proved unbeatable. A power play goal from Nikita Mikhailis underlined the visitor’s control of the game.

Severstal rallies to win in overtime

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 2 Severstal Cherepovets 3 OT (1-0, 0-0, 1-2, 0-1)

Playoff bound Severstal rallied from 0-2 to grab an overtime win in Nizhnekamsk thanks to Kirill Kapustin’s double. He tied the game late in the third then grabbed the winner after 39 seconds.

A power play goal from Roman Abrosimov put the home team in front during the first period and, after a long wait for a second goal, Andrei Chivilyov’s 54th-minute goal doubled the lead. At that point, it seemed that the home team was on course for a morale-boosting win at the end of a difficult season.

However, Severstal was not done yet. Kirill Adamchuk reduced the deficit with five minutes of regulation to play, then Kapustin finished the job. On 58:10 he tied the game, with Igor Geraskin marking his 200th KHL appearance with an assist. And Kapustin settled the outcome 39 seconds into the extras.

Ak Bars miss chance to confirm top spot

Ak Bars Kazan 2 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 SO (1-2, 0-0, 1-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Despite winning a KHL record of three Gagarin Cups, Ak Bars has never finished top of the pile in the regular season. Today, Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team had a chance to end that somewhat surprising sequence, but after Ak Bars went down to Magnitka in a shoot-out the race for the Continental Cup will go to the final game of the season.

Metallurg, meanwhile, is still looking to claim third place in the East and today’s win keeps it within reach of Salavat Yulaev as the season comes to a close. The visitor made a great start, taking the lead through Philip Holm after 62 seconds. Midway through the opening frame, Andrei Chibisov doubled the advantage with a power play goal, while Taylor Beck collected his second assist of the game. However, Ak Bars pulled one back late in the frame thanks to Kirill Petrov.

On Tuesday, Kazan rallied from 0-2 to defeat Barys in overtime. Today, once again, the men in green cancelled out a two-goal deficit. It took time to get the tying goal: Dmitry Voronkov’s effort was whistled off for use of hands, but in the 54th minute Kristian Khenkel produced a legitimate effort and sent the action into the extras.

Overtime could not separate the teams, and in the shoot-out they were locked at 1-1 after Maxim Karpov and Alexander Burmistrov converted their attempts. However, Chibisov recorded the decisive attempt and prolonged the title race for another day.

Jokerit Helsinki 4 Amur Khabarovsk 3 OT (1-2, 1-0, 1-1, 1-0)

Jokerit completed its regular season campaign with a victory at home to Amur, sending Lauri Marjamaki’s team into the playoffs on a positive note. Today’s game also represents the end of hockey at the Hartwall Arena this season, with the Finns opting to play all their playoff games on the road due to the technical problems of teams crossing the border at short notice.

Amur, meanwhile, is making a good finish to the regular season despite failing to make the playoffs. After three wins in four games, the Tigers started brightly in Helsinki. In the first 10 minutes, the visitor opened a 2-0 lead through Hynek Zohorna and Dmitry Arkhipov. However, Jordan Schroeder continued his good recent form to pull a goal back for Jokerit before the break.

In the second session, Jokerit returned to its game and steadily pressed Amur back into its own zone. Evgeny Alikin made several big saves to preserve his team’s lead but was powerless when a defensive lapse enabled Peter Regin to steal the puck and beat the visiting goalie at last.

The Finns continued to press in the third and got in front when Niklas Jensen outwitted Sergei Tereshchenko before wiring a shot to the top corner. However, Vladimir Butusov saved Amur from defeat in regulation before Schroeder’s second of the game delivered an overtime victory for the host.

SKA overpowers Vityaz

SKA St. Petersburg 4 Vityaz Moscow Region 0 (2-0, 1-0, 1-0)

After its playoff hopes ended in Helsinki on Tuesday, Vityaz headed to Petersburg with little more than pride to play for. And a dejected visitor proved to be no match for a SKA team moving into the playoffs and a first-round series against Severstal or Dinamo Minsk.

Photo: 25.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. SKA (St.Petersburg) - Vityaz (Moscow Region)

SKA welcomed back Artyom Shvets-Rogovoi and Vasily Tokranov, both of whom had missed long spells through injury and Tokranov almost opened the scoring early on, only to be denied by Anton Todykov. However, it wasn’t long before the home team had the lead through Igor Ozhiganov. Late in the first period, Andrei Kuzmenko doubled that advantage and largely settled the outcome of the game.

At the start of the second period, Kirill Marchenko and Ivan Morozov combined for the latter to make it 3-0. Then Marchenko added a fourth goal in the final frame as SKA marched to a comfortable win.

Army Men keep title push alive

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 CSKA Moscow 3 SO (0-1, 2-0, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

CSKA kept its hopes of topping the regular season table alive with victory in Yaroslavl. With one game left to play, the Army Men are one point behind Ak Bars and after snapping Loko’s four-game winning streak Igor Nikitin’s team is still in contention for first place.

However, the Muscovites had to come from behind to salvage this game. True, the visitor got off to a great start when an early defensive error from Alexei Marchenko — once a CSKA player — presented Konstantin Okulov with the puck. He turned it into an assist for Maxim Shalunov’s opening goal. After that, though, Lokomotiv had the better of the play as the visitor ran into penalty trouble and spent much of the opening frame on the defensive.

That effort did not earn a reward in the first period, but in the second Nikolai Kovalenko tied the scores and a power play goal from Denis Alexeyev gave the home team the lead. At last, CSKA cut out the penalties and even got a power play of its own but could not tie the game before the intermission.

In the third, CSKA had to kill another penalty but then started to pose an offensive threat of its own. Artyom Ilyenko made a last-ditch clearance to preserve the Loko lead but a couple of minutes later Pavel Karnaukhov found the tying goal. CSKA charged forward in search of a winner, but the Railwaymen were resilient in defense and took the game all the way to a shoot-out. However, the Army Men dominated the penalty shoots, with Lars Johansson denying all home attempts as the visitor left with the win.

Sibir claims third straight win

Spartak Moscow 2 Sibir Novosibirsk 3 OT (1-2, 1-0, 0-0, 0-1)

Spartak secured its playoff place on Tuesday but after defeat today the Red-and-Whites can no longer finish better than eighth in the West. That means a playoff match-up against CSKA in the opening round. Sibir, meanwhile, posted a third successive victory as it looks to end a disappointing campaign on a high note.

Photo: 25.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Spartak (Moscow) - Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)

The home team made a bright start and took the lead after three minutes through Artyom Foyodorov. However, Sibir hit back. A power play goal from Yegor Milovzorov tied the scores before Nikita Shashkov made it 2-1 late in the opening frame.

Spartak, now full of confidence after four wins in five games secured a playoff place, managed to tie the scores midway through the game thanks to Robin Hanzl. However, neither team could find a winner inside 60 minutes. It looked like overtime might not be enough either, until Sibir grabbed a goal with just 11 seconds left: Alexander Sharov settled this game, ending the resistance of home goalie Alexander Trushkov.

Hartikainen keeps Ufa in the chase

Avangard Omsk 1 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 2 (0-1, 1-0, 0-1)

Two goals from Teemu Hartikainen brought Salavat Yulaev victory at Avangard and will take the race for the Chernyshev Division title down to the final game. Avangard could have sealed top spot today, and confirmed second place in the East, but after losing in regulation to its closest rival, the Hawks will need to finish the job on Saturday.

Photo: 25.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Avangard (Omsk) - Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)

The first period was fast-paced. Avangard enjoyed a longer pause before the game and, feeling fresher, made a bright start. However, the home team could not get an early goal and fell behind seconds before the intermission as Hartikainen potted his first of the game.

The tempo did not let up after the intermission. Avangard twice had good chances to tie it up when Alexei Potapov broke through one on one, but Daniil Tarasov twice denied the home forward. However, he could not keep the Hawks out until the intermission and in the last minute of the frame young forward Arseny Gritsyuk scored his first goal in the KHL to make it 1-1.

In the final third, the Ufa Finnish combination did its job once again. Markus Granlund was the provider: his short pass found Hartikainen and Salavat’s leading scorer made no mistake as he restored the visitor’s lead. Bob Hartley called a timeout early, with more than six minutes to play, as he looked to stir his men back into action. That prompted a final storm that left Ufa hanging on, but the visitor secured the win and kept its hopes of winning the division alive.

Kovar’s shut-out leads Avto to victory

HC Sochi 0 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 (0-1, 0-1, 0-1)

Both of these teams suffered heavy losses in Moscow on Tuesday, but Avtomobilist bounced back with a shut-out win beside the Black Sea. Goalie Jakub Kovar recorded his seventh shut-out of the season and the 45th of his career.

The first period was short on scoring chances, but a much-changed Avtomobilist roster managed to get in front thanks to Vyacheslav Litovchenko. In the second period, the home team was more competitive, particularly in the later stages, and created chances to tie the game. However, Kovar kept his goal intact and once Avtomobilist was able to build some pressure in the Sochi zone, Brooks Macek doubled the lead following a Nikita Tryamkin shot.

It was a similar story in the third, with Sochi again creating chances but Avto getting the only goal. Georgy Belousov wrapped up the win, while Kovar completed 29 saves to frustrate the Leopards.

Klinkhammer sinks Riga

Dinamo Riga 1 Dinamo Minsk 2 (0-0, 1-0, 0-2)

Dinamo Riga came into this game against its namesake looking to avenge a 2-6 loss when the teams last met. And, for much of the action, that looked entirely possible. Riga had the better of the opening frame and might have taken the lead when Miks Indrasis went through one-on-one with the visiting goalie, only for Alexei Kolosov to make the save.

In the second frame, the home team managed to open the scoring. Gunars Skvorcovs found a brilliant pass to release Indrasis. He advanced into a dangerous position but, rather that shooting, set up Denis Parshin. It was the right decision: Parshin had time enough to set himself for a shot and fire past Kolosov.

Minsk almost tied it up late in the middle session when Rob Klinkhammer was denied on a solo rush. The Canadian forward then drew a fine save out of Janis Voris in the third, before Ilya Solovyov finally levelled when he converted Roman Gorbunov’s feed from the corner. Then, at last, Klinkhammer got his goal 11 minutes from time off a Stepan Falkovsky assist. That gave Minsk the verdict.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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