The bottom two in the West met with nothing more than pride to play for – and Minsk got the win that opens a three-point gap over basement club Riga.
There were few chances in the first period, with the two teams sharing just nine attempts on target. In the second, Minsk raised the tempo, while both teams raised the temperature with a string of penalties. The fight between Andris Dzerins and Mikhail Stefanovich was the most prominent of those incidents, and while the two players cooled their heels in the box, Minsk grabbed two quick goals. Andrei Kostitsyn got the first, then Ryan Spooner doubled the lead on the power play.
Riga, winless since Jan. 4, was staring down the barrel of a 10th straight loss after mustering just two shots on goal in the second period. The Latvians gave themselves a chance, though, pulling one back through Uvis Balinskis on the power play with three minutes left. However, it wasn’t enough: not even 90 seconds with an extra attacker could change the final scoreline.