The Railwaymen move up to second place in the Western Conference after seeing off Vityaz. Lokomotiv is level on points with CSKA, but overtakes the defending champion thanks to winning more games in regulation. However, the Muscovites have three games in hand and remain well placed to claim second behind SKA.
Lokomotiv handed a debut to veteran forward Mikhail Varnakov. The Torpedo legend was a surprise deadline day acquisition in Yaroslavl after he did not find a club in the summer. However, his appearance on Tuesday makes him the 25th player to feature in all 15 KHL seasons to date. Varnakov was placed on the fourth line and played 13 shifts for seven minutes of ice time.
Up against a Vityaz team that won its last three games and currently enjoys some breathing space in the battle for a playoff spot, Lokomotiv made a good start. Alexander Polunin opened the scoring in the fifth minute and late in the first period Maxim Shalunov doubled that lead. In between, though, Vityaz got the puck in the net. However, Scott Wilson’s effort was whistled off for high sticks after a video review.
Loko outshot Vityaz 12-3 in the first period, but things were much tighter in a goalless middle frame. Even though the visitor had to kill a three-on-five penalty at one stage, the home team could not achieve the same kind of dominance. In the third, Vityaz tried to dictate the play but struggled to find a way past Daniil Isayev in the home net. Late in the game, a power play for the visitor encouraged Vyacheslav Butsayev to play six-on-four. That produced a goal for Ivan Yezhov with three minutes left and promised a nervous finale. However, when Maxim Dorozhko again left his net, Lokomotiv responded with an empty netter from Artur Kayumov to seal the win.
This was a high-stakes encounter for both teams. Dinamo dropped out of the playoff places at the weekend after losing 2-1 to Severstal. However, victory here would see the Bison back in the top eight and level on points with Spartak. Meanwhile, the Red-and-Whites knew that a win would open a four-point gap over a big rival in that playoff race.
Spartak had won three of its four previous meetings with Dinamo this season and the home team started well on this occasion as well. Inside the first minute, Shane Prince and Andrei Loktionov combined effectively to set up Alexander Khokhlachyov for the opening goal. However, midway through the opening frame, Dinamo equalized. Stepan Zvyagin, 18, applied a redirect to a Joe Duszak point shot to claim his first KHL goal.
The home team regained the lead after Maxim Tsyplakov raced onto Yegor Savikov’s pass and beat Alexei Kolosov in the Dinamo net. The visitor thought it had a tying goal just before the intermission, but Nikita Zorkin’s shot was ruled out for interference on home goalie Patrik Rybar.
There was a fast start to the second period, with chances at both ends in the early stages. But we had to wait until the 34th minute to see another goal when Cedric Paquette stuffed the puck home from close range seconds after the end of a Spartak penalty. Pacquette was involved again a minute later, setting up Ryan Spooner in a dangerous position. That chance went begging, though, as Spooner shot narrowly wide of the target.
It seemed that the teams would be deadlocked at the intermission until a penalty on Sergei Sapego handed Spartak a power play chance. Matvei Zaseda took advantage, catching Dinamo changing on the fly and making it 3-2.
In the third period, Dinamo pushed for another equalizer. However, a hard-working home defense limited its opportunities. Vitaly Pinchuk came close on a couple of occasions, but it wasn’t until late in the session that Zorkin made the breakthrough when he converted Dmitry Deryabin’s pass from the blue line.
That took the game into overtime. Almost immediately, Dinamo’s Kolosov left his net in favor of a fourth skater. However, on this occasion, the plan backfired and Andrei Loktionov’s empty-net goal gave Spartak the win. Meanwhile, Dinamo’s point was enough to edge it back into the top eight. The Bison are level on points with Severstal but have the edge after winning more games.