- © RIA Novosti. Yaroslav Neyelov
© RIA Novosti. Yaroslav Neyelov
MOSCOW, January 21 (R-Sport) - Lokomotiv Yaroslavl has sealed a place in the KHL playoffs in its first season since a plane crash wiped out the entire team after a 4-3 victory over Donbass Donetsk.
Monday night's victory over the Ukrainians lifted to Lokomotiv 84 points, an unattainable total for those outside the playoff zone with six games of the regular season to go.
Reaching the playoffs is a shot in the arm for supporters in Yaroslavl after the 2011 tragedy that tore the hockey-mad city apart.
Fourty-four people were killed when Lokomotiv's jet crashed on take-off including Canadian coach Brad McCrimmon and a host of NHL prospects.
Monday's win was settled midway through the second period, when Sergei Plotnikov broke the 3-3 deadlock off Yegor Averin's assist.
Daniil Apalkov top-scored for the visitors with first equalizer and an assist on Staffan Kronwall's powerplay strike that made it 3-2 to Lokomotiv.
Alexei Kruchinin got the second for Lokomotiv.
Vaclav Nedorost had given Donbass the lead after just 47 seconds, but it was the only time the KHL newcomer would be in front.
Denis Kochetkov and Canada's former NHL star Randy Robitaille grabbed the other goals for the hosts.
Elsewhere, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod's bid for a playoff place took a blow with a 2-1 overtime defeat at Spartak Moscow. The team remains in eighth in the Western Conference on 59 points, the same as the two teams below, Dynamo Minsk and Donbass.
Spartak is bottom of the conference and out of the reckoning.
Meanwhile, the team above Spartak, Dinamo Riga, fell agonizingly short of a sensation comeback with a 5-4 home defeat to Moscow region team Atlant.
Riga had gone 5-1 down but scored three times in the third period to come close to overtime.