Andy Potts Andy Potts
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The battle for first place in the regular season went down to the final day, but a 1-0 win for CSKA at Ak Bars gave the Army Men the honors for the sixth time in 13 seasons. The other outstanding issue of the day was the destiny of the Chernyshev Division title. Avangard’s 5-2 win over Barys secured top spot for the Hawks even before Salavat Yulaev’s defeat at Lokomotiv. Elsewhere, Dmitrij Jaskin’s 38th goal of the season took him past Alexander Maltsev’s 50-year-old club record as Dynamo Moscow won at Kunlun Red Star.

Late drama gives Traktor a derby win

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2 Traktor Chelyabinsk 3 OT (1-0, 1-1, 0-1, 0-1)

The final game of the regular season began with a celebration for Metallurg — but ended with a dramatic collapse as Traktor turned it around late to win in overtime.

Photo: 27.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - Traktor (Chelyabinsk)

The celebration involved Metallurg legend Vitaly Atyushov, an uncompromising defenseman who played more than 500 games for the club, winning the Russian Super League in 2007. He also had a season with Traktor before ending his playing career at Neftekhimik last season. Today the 41-year-old was added to the Metallurg hall of fame, with his banner raised to the roof of the arena.

As guest of honor, Atyushov saw an entertaining contest between these South Ural rivals. With the playoffs imminent, both teams gave young players an opportunity to gain experience. However, it was the established names that shaped the game: Kirill Semyonov put Magnitka in front late in the first period, Igor Polygalov tied it up for Traktor on the power play early in the second. Then, another Metallurg legend made his mark: Sergei Mozyakin scored a trademark goal on the PP to restore his team’s lead.

It looked like that effort would be the winner until the final seconds. On 59:52, Vitaly Kravtsov tied the scores, then Ilya Karpukhin struck the winner after 47 seconds of overtime. However, the prospect of the two teams meeting again when the playoffs start next week was dashed when Salavat Yulaev lost at Lokomotiv. Metallurg moves into third place and will face Barys in post season.

Sibir finishes strongly

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 0 Sibir Novosibirsk 4 (0-1, 0-1, 0-2)

Sibir completed a strong finish to a disappointing season, recording a fourth successive victory after failing to make the playoffs this year. Avtomobilist, meanwhile, goes into post season in mixed form following a sequence of alternate wins and losses that leaves Bill Peters’ team in seventh and preparing to face Avangard in the first round.

The visitor made a fast start to the game and went ahead after 90 seconds through Nikita Setdikov. The 25-year-old potted his first goal for Sibir after moving to Novosibirsk from Avtomobilist during the season. That was almost the full extent of his team’s attacking contribution in the first stanza, but Harri Sateri was at his best to make 16 saves and preserve the lead.

The Finnish goalie continued to impress in the middle frame, with a further 17 stops. Once again, Sibir created few chances but made the most of what it had and extended the lead just before the intermission thanks to Alexander Sharov. Then, after playing disciplined hockey for two periods, Avtomobilist began taking penalties in the third. The home PK worked well, but Sibir was able to gain the initiative in the game and Vladislav Ushenin potted a third goal to put the result beyond doubt. Sharov’s second of the day added to Avto’s woe, while the home offense saw Sateri stop 43 shots to secure his third shut-out of the season.

Hawks secure Chernyshev title

Avangard Omsk 5 Barys Nur-Sultan 2 (1-1, 1-0, 3-1)

Ilya Kovalchuk marked his return to action with a goal as Avangard got the win it needed to clinch the Chernyshev Division title. The Hawks’ victory over Barys, secured by two goals from Sergei Tolchinsky, sets up an opening playoff test against seventh-placed Avtomobilist. Barys finishes the season in sixth place and will face Metallurg in its opening round of playoff action.

Photo: 27.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Avangard (Omsk) - Barys (Nur-Sultan)

This was a competitive conclusion to the regular season, with the lead changing hands over the course of the game. Barys got the opening goal in the third minute thanks to Kirill Panyukov, who scored after Tolchinsky took an early penalty. Kovalchuk, too, found himself in the box, but Avangard killed that penalty and when Kovi returned to the game, he produced a power play goal of his own to tie the scores.

At the start of the second period, Tolchinsky got his first of the game to put Avangard in front and for much of the middle frame the home team dominated play. However, Barys sent a warning to the host late in the session when Alikhan Asetov broke away for a solo rush at Igor Bobkov’s net, only to be denied by the goalie.

Barys managed to tie the scores at the start of the third period through Darren Dietz, but Avangard would not be denied. Tolchinsky restored the lead with his second goal and Denis Zernov added a fourth in the 55th minute to make the game safe. Young Yegor Chinakhov had the final say as the Hawks fly into the playoffs with plenty of confidence.

Severstal’s fast start sets up win at Sochi

HC Sochi 2 Severstal Cherepovets 4 (0-3, 2-0, 0-1)

Severstal completed its regular season campaign with a win, moving ahead of Dinamo Minsk on the final day of the season and setting up a playoff series against Dynamo Moscow.

The first period was all about the visitor, with the Steelmen firing in three unanswered goals. Daniil Vovchenko and Andrei Alexeyev scored twice in quick succession midway through the frame, then Nikita Makeyev added a third just before the intermission. That was the end of the day for starting goalie Ivan Kulbakov, who was replaced by Maxim Tretiak.

Tretiak stood firm in the second period as Sochi found a way back into the game. It took time for the Leopards to gain a foothold, but two goals late in the frame brought the game back to life when Amir Garayev got the home team on the scoreboard before Vasily Glotov scored on the power play in the final second of the stanza.

On Thursday, Kirill Kapustin’s double late in the game brought Severstal a win at Neftekhimik. Today he produced another important goal early in the third period to make it 4-2 and give his team some breathing space. It was enough to put the game beyond Sochi, which finishes the season with seven straight losses.

Dominant Dynamo overpowers Red Star

Kunlun Red Star 1 Dynamo Moscow 5 (1-1, 0-2, 0-2)

Dynamo secured third place in the West, and a playoff match-up with Severstal, after reeling off a sixth successive victory. For Red Star, a difficult season ends with five straight losses as Alexei Kovalev’s team finishes bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Dynamo had the better of the first period and went in front in the eighth minute. Andrei Mironov showed great vision from beyond his own goal line, spotting Ivan Igumnov wide open in center ice and picking him out with a pass that sent him into the Dragons’ zone to score. However, the home team hit back a couple of minutes later when Gleb Shashkov forced home an Andrej Sustr feed. Dynamo challenged the call, citing goalie interference, but the video review dismissed that complaint and Shashkov had his second goal in three games.

The Blue-and-Whites continued to press and moved in front in the second period. Alexander Kucheryavenko made it 2-1 when he fired home Vyacheslav Kulyomin’s neat feed and Kovalev called a time-out soon afterwards as the pressure on his players intensified. However, the next goal went to the visitor, albeit after a review to confirm that Daniil Tarasov’s effort had crossed the line amid a flurry of saves from Dmitry Shikin. The goalie got his glove to Tarasov’s shot but his hand was already behind the goal line.

The third period brought another goal for Dynamo when Michal Cajkovsky scored from close range off a Dmitry Kagarlitsky feed. A couple of minutes later, Cajkovsky turned provider for Dmitrij Jaskin, who potted his 38th goal of a memorable season and broke Alexander Maltsev’s 50-year-old club goalscoring record for a single season.

Loko snaps Ufa’s winning streak

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1 (0-1, 4-0, 0-0)

Ufa’s winning run hit the buffers away to the Railwaymen. Tomi Lamsa’s team had already lost its chance of topping the Chernyshev Division when Avangard won at home to Barys, but was still able to beat Metallurg to third place. However, an impressive second-period show from Loko sent Salavat Yulaev spinning to a first loss in 10 games.

The visitor started well enough, having the better of a first period that brought few clear scoring chances. Late in the session, Rodion Amirov’s wrist shot opened the scoring. At the start of the second period, Ufa was close to extending its lead. Teemu Hartikainen hit the post and a defensive error presented Mikhail Naumenkov with a great chance that was denied by Ilya Konovalov.

Then it all changed. Maxim Osipov tied the scores when he redirected Pavel Kraskovsky’s feed then, within a minute, Rushan Rafikov put the home team in front. Further scores from Denis Alexeyev and Alexei Marchenko late in the middle frame gave the host a commanding lead at the second intermission, and Salavat Yulaev never recovered.

Despite today’s win, Loko was unable to overtake Dynamo Moscow into third in the West — although a quirk of the divisions means that both teams finish with more points than second-placed SKA — and Andrei Skabelka begins his playoff campaign with a series against Jokerit, to be played entirely in Yaroslavl.

SKA wins in dress rehearsal

SKA St. Petersburg 4 Dinamo Minsk 2 (2-0, 1-0, 1-2)

SKA wrapped up its regular season with a win over Dinamo Minsk — and claimed a psychological boost before the teams meet again in the playoffs next week. Severstal’s win at Sochi pushes the Belarusians down to seventh, and sets up a first-round meeting with the Army Men.

The home team took control of this game in the first period, creating the better chances and opening a 2-0 lead late in the session. Emil Galimov got the first, firing home from the right-hand circle, then Miro Aaltonen doubled the lead with a long-range effort. That was the Finns first goal since recovering from the injury that kept him out since Jan. 17. A power play goal from Ivan Morozov extended SKA’s lead early in the second, but subsequently Dinamo managed to get closer to its opponent.

With the playoffs coming soon, it was important for Minsk to show that it can compete with SKA and two quick goals in the third period amply made that point. Denis Mosalyov — who once tormented SKA in playoff action with Dynamo Moscow — scored the first then had an assist as Francis Pare potted a second just 16 seconds later. Suddenly, a home procession turned into a tight contest. However, the home team secured the win with five minutes left when Morozov intercepted the puck in center ice and Galimov scored off the rebound from the youngster’s shot.

Johansson denies Ak Bars top spot

Ak Bars Kazan 0 CSKA Moscow 1 (0-0, 0-1, 0-0)

When these teams met at the start of the campaign, the Opening Cup was at stake and Ak Bars took the honors in overtime. Today, on the final day of the regular season, they met once more with the winner claiming top spot in the championship table and lifting the Continental Cup.

Photo: 27.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Ak Bars (Kazan) - CSKA (Moscow)

Surprisingly, Ak Bars has never won that particular title, despite its three Gagarin Cups and consistently strong performances in the KHL era. CSKA was looking for its sixth Continental Cup, a record of success that began under Dmitry Kvartalnov, now head coach in Kazan. The stage was set for drama, but the first act was surprisingly one-sided. Ak Bars outshot CSKA 9-2 and dominated the play but could not score on Lars Johansson.

That pattern did not change much in the second period. Although the Army Men managed twice as many shots on goal, compared with the first, that still only amounted to four. However, it was enough to open the scoring when Artyom Sergeyev beat Adam Reideborn from distance. At the other end, the home team continued to press but could not find a way through, even with two power play chances to supplement its control.

It wasn’t until the third period that CSKA managed to even up the balance of play. As the home team had to take risks in search of a goal, so the visitor got more opportunities to attack. There was one last power play for Ak Bars, but Johansson held on and a late penalty on the home team slowed the momentum at a crucial stage of the game. In the end, the regular season was decided by a single goal, and CSKA took the prize once again.

Neftekhimik ends on high note

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 3 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 OT (1-0, 1-2, 0-0, 1-0)

Neftekhimik’s playoff hopes ended some weeks ago, but Vyacheslav Butsayev’s team managed something to cheer on the final day thanks to an overtime victory over Torpedo. The visitor was already destined to finish eighth in the Eastern Conference and goes on to face Ak Bars in the playoffs next week.

Torpedo ran into trouble early in this game, taking two early penalties and seeing Vladimir Galuzin scored on the 5-on-3 power play that ensued. That lead lasted until the intermission, but the second session saw the visitor hit back. Ivan Chekhovich tied it up and Brady Austin made it 2-1 at the midway stage, only for Pavel Poryadin to score on the stroke of the second intermission.

A goalless third period was more notable for a steady string of minor penalties, but once into overtime it took just 11 seconds for Alexander Osipov to grab the winning goal.

Vityaz vengeance comes too late

Spartak Moscow 3 Vityaz Moscow Region 5 (2-0, 1-2, 0-3)

This should have been the first ‘play-off’ game of the season. A week ago, it seemed that this meeting might be a win-or-bust affair for both teams as they looked to secure a top eight finish. However, after so long neck-and-neck, Spartak pulled away in the final week of the season and secured its post season place with time to spare.

Photo: 27.02.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Spartak (Moscow) - Vityaz (Moscow Region)

The early stages suggested that missing out on the top eight might have deflated Vityaz. Spartak opened a 2-0 lead in the first period after an early goal from Ilya Talaluyev and a power play effort from Anton Zlobin. Svyatoslav Grebenshchikov pulled one back for the visitor early in the second, but Anatoly Nikontsev made it 3-1 on the power play.

However, Vityaz still had plenty of pride to play for and that inspired a big turnaround. Zakhar Bardakov started the process with a power play goal, then three unanswered tallies in the third secured victory for Mikhail Kravets’ team. Vitaly Popov tied the scores midway through the third, then Kaspars Daugavins scored a penalty shot against the team that released him in the summer and put Vityaz in front for the first time in the game. Justin Danforth hit the empty net late on to seal the win. Spartak moves on to a Moscow derby against CSKA, Vityaz is left to think about what might have been.

Polunin gets the last goal of the season

Dinamo Riga 2 Amur Khabarovsk 3 OT (0-1, 2-0, 0-1, 0-1)

Both of these teams would finish their 2020/21 seasons today but despite missing out on the playoffs, they put on an entertaining show in Riga.

Amur, finishing the season strongly with three wins and two overtime losses in the five games prior to this one, was the first to show and went in front on a Dmitry Arkhipov power play goal after seven minutes. Arkhipov, 28, claimed his sixth goal of the season, matching his best ever return in the KHL.

However, Dinamo has also shown some bright signs in the final days of the season, even though results have been hard to come by. The home team made a real fight of this game, turning the scoreline upside down in the second period thanks to two power play goals from Denis Parshin.

Amur tied it up in the 48th minute when Alexander Sharov scored the first equal-strength goal of the game. That took us to overtime in the final game of the regular season, and the Tigers got the verdict thanks to Alexander Polunin’s goal.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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