Dinamo Riga picked up a valuable win in its bid to make the playoffs, edging Neftekhimik 4-3. The Latvians led 4-0 with 10 minutes to play but had to quell a big comeback from the host. Ak Bars captain Alexander Svitov made his long-awaited return to the KHL after injury and helped his team beat Slovan 2-1. CSKA rested its international stars but still had enough to win 3-0 at Torpedo.
Club captain Alexander Svitov returned to the ice for Ak Bars, making his first appearance in the KHL since last season’s Gagarin Cup final. His return softened the blow of Jiri Sekac and Anton Lander missing out as they rested following their international commitments last weekend.
The teams traded goals in the first period, with Mario Lunter putting Slovan in front on a short-handed strike after a quick breakaway. Stanislav Galiyev tied the scores in the 18th minute and went on to get the decider midway through the second period. Vladimir Tkachyov assisted on both markers.
The win sees Ak Bars return to third place in the Eastern Conference, moving ahead of Barys. Slovan remains outside the playoff places in the West; the Slovaks’ current run brings seven losses in eight games.
Dinamo made it three wins in a row to tighten its grip on a playoff place in the west – but almost allowed an unlikely comeback in Nizhnekamsk. The visitor’s success owed much to its clinical finishing: Riga scored four goals from 27 shots, Neftekhimik needed 42 attempts to score three times on Timur Bilyalov.
After a scoreless first period, the Latvians jumped into a 4-0 lead by the time Rihards Marenis found the net in the 50th minute. That was Marenis’ first ever KHL goal in the 25-year-old’s fifth appearance for Dinamo. Earlier, Gints Meija scored twice, sandwiching a Kevin Clark effort as Dinamo seemed to be in complete control of the game.
However, the last 10 minutes saw Neftekhimik come roaring back in search of a win that would give it some breathing space in its battle with Kunlun Red Star for a top eight place in the Eastern Conference. Emil Galimov finally solved Bilyalov in the visiting net within 30 seconds of Marenis’ goal, and Joonas Nattinen added two power play goals in the closing stages as Dinamo suffered a nervous finale.
CSKA restored its three-point lead at the top of the Western Conference – and closed to within six points of Avtomobilist on the overall KHL leaderboard – thanks to a shut-out victory at Torpedo.
With so many players returning from international duty, head coach Igor Nikitin opted to shuffle his roster for this game. Many of the players who represented Russia in Finland or Germany were rested and the fourth line featured three seldom-seen forwards. Ivan Silayev made his first appearance since 2014 – coincidentally, that one was against Torpedo as well – while Lev Komissarov made his debut. Artyom Antipov was the ‘veteran’ of the line in his sixth outing for CSKA.
The new-look line-up got an early boost when Sergei Andronov opened the scoring in the fourth minute. But it took time for the visitor to seal the victory. Sergei Tolchinsky finally extended CSKA’s advantage in the 50th minute and Mat Robinson wrapped up the win with an empty net goal. Ilya Sorokin made 22 saves to record his second consecutive shut-out.