Нижний Новгород (17:00)
Oskar Osala hit a hat-trick to help Metallurg Magnitogorsk to a 5-3 win over Kunlun, while Zach Yuen became the first Chinese player to score a playoff goal. In Kazan, a second successive 2-1 victory gave Ak Bars a solid advantage to take to Salavat Yulaev on Sunday. Three third-period goals for Avangard – all of them after visiting head coach Alexander Andriyevsky was expelled from the game – put the Omsk team in charge of its series against Admiral. In Chelyabinsk, Traktor recovered from a 2-5 loss on Wednesday to beat Barys 5-1 and square the series.
(Series tied at 1-1)
Barys was the only team to pick up an away win from the first three days of playoff action, piling up the pressure on Traktor ahead of the second meeting in this Eastern Conference series.
On Wednesday, the home team’s downfall was a lack of concentration early in the game: conceding after just 11 seconds and slipping to a 0-5 deficit by the 33rd minute left Traktor with too much to do on the night. But a third-period revival saw two unanswered goals, and offered some hope for the rest of the series.
Tonight, some of those lessons were learned. Traktor shaded a goalless first period, rarely allowing Barys a chance to get inside the defense and threaten Pavel Francouz in the home goal. Then, in the middle stanza, the host was dominant. Two goals, a 14-2 advantage on the shot count and, apparently a commanding position in the game. Alexei Kruchinin fired Traktor ahead in the 34thminute, a powerful one-timer from the face-off spot after Paul Szczechura’s diagonal pass out from behind the net found the gaps in the Barys PK. Two days earlier, Barys led 5-0 at this stage in the game; today Traktor was 1-0 in front.
Alexander Sharov made it 2-0 in the 39th minute, beating Henrik Karlsson in a one-on-one break after Dmitry Pestunov’s pass from deep in his own zone beat Barys’ cross-bench line change to find Sharov on the blue line. The video officials checked for offside and ruled that Sharov was good to go.
Then came the nerve-jangler. A power play for Barys, which had spent much of the session shorthanded, saw Martin St.Pierre convert a Nigel Dawes pass to halve the deficit. The visitor only managed two shots in the second period, but still had a priceless goal to put it right back in the game.
Penalty trouble finished off Barys, though. In total the Kazakhs picked up 20 PIMs in the game, and a double minor for Corey Trivino proved decisive. Artyom Penkovsky got his first career playoff goal to convert the first power play, getting off the mark in some style with a flicked backhand finish. Trivino had barely left the box when the vastly experienced Maxim Yakutsenya added a fourth before shooting the fifth into an empty net. The 36-year-old forward last got a post-season goal for Traktor in 2013, helping a young team to the Gagarin Cup final. Today he set the seal on a victory that revives the dream of another run deep into the playoffs.
(Avangard leads the series 2-0)
Avangard took control of this series with a second successive home win over Admiral – but for the second game running the #2 seed in the East was pushed hard by its opponent.
It needed a third-period flourish to bury this game, with Admiral twice leading in the early stages. Maybe the visitor was sunk by the loss of head coach Alexander Andriyevsky, who was banished from the bench after Avangard tied the scores at 3-3 with a power play goal midway through the second period. Certainly, from that moment on the game shifted decisively in the home team’s favor, and goals from Mikhail Grigoryev, Jonas Ahnelov and Mikhail Yunkov saw Avangard to victory in the third.
Andriyevsky’s anger stemmed from the officials’ failure to stop play in the build-up to Avangard’s third goal. Admiral’s Robert Sabolic was dumped to the ice by Erik Gustafsson and appeared to be struggling to recover. With the visitor already on the penalty kill, Avangard took advantage of the extra space and Vladimir Sobotka fed Nikolai Lemtyugov for a well-worked goal. But Andrievsky’s grievance over the Sabolic incident left him raging at the officials … and talking his way into more trouble. Admiral rarely threatened after that, and the game got away.
Earlier, though, things looked very different for Admiral. Despite the disappointment of giving up a short-handed goal to Yunkov just eight seconds into the first PP of the evening, the visitor responded to tie the game on the same power play thanks to Artyom Zemchyonok. The second penalty against Avangard led to Vadim Krasnoslobodtsev making it 2-1 at the end of the first period.
The home team quickly levelled with a power play goal of its own for Evgeny Medvedev, but Krasnoslodtsev produced a defense-splitting pass to set Maxim Kazakov away for a beautiful finish past Dominik Furch. Kazakov has two goals in two playoff games, but has yet to enjoy a victory. Four minutes after he put Admiral 3-2 up, the Sabolic incident and Lemtyugov’s goal changed the course of this game completely. The visitor barely mustered another shot as Avangard turned the screws to produce a convincing final scoreline.
Sunday’s action shifts to Vladivostok with Avangard enjoying a 2-0 advantage. But the comfort of that lead does not entirely reflect how close these teams have been on the ice for much of the series.
(Metallurg leads the series 2-0)
Instead, the scoring milestone for the day was inscribed by Kunlun’s Zach Yuen, who became the first Chinese-eligible player to hit the net in post-season action when he tied the game at 3-3 late in the second period. As the home defense crowded around Alexei Ponikarovsky, Brett Bellemore drilled the puck across the ice to Yuen and he fired into the unguarded portion of Vasily Koshechkin’s net to make another little bit of hockey history.
Kunlun’s joy was short-lived, though. Osala made it 4-3 with a short-handed goal early in the third. Alexei Bereglazov halted a Red Star raid, Denis Platonov sent the Finn off to the races and Osala won his duel with Andrei Makarov to claim the eventual game-winner. His empty net goal 44 seconds from the hooter merely confirmed the outcome.
But the Chinese team can take heart from a hugely competitive performance in game two. Osala opened the scoring in the first period, converting a fantastic pass from Alexander Semin, but Kunlun hit back to lead in the second session thanks to a pair of goals from Sean Collins. First, the Canadian collected Chad Rau’s pass from behind the net to tie the scores; next, on the power play, he deflected a Tobias Viklund shot against the piping and reacted fastest to put away the rebound. Red Star led 2-1, and a shock was brewing.
However, just as in the first game, Metallurg produced a quick-fire goal blitz to turn this game around. On Wednesday, it was two goals in seven seconds; today it was two in 32. Danis Zaripov made the first, recovering play behind the Kunlun net and finding Jan Kovar in the circle. The Czech showed off some soccer skills to get the puck under control before firing his shot into the top corner. Then Platonov’s high speed break stretched Makarov before Vladislav Kaletnik put Metallurg 3-2 ahead.
The series moves to Beijing on Sunday, with China getting ready to stage its first ever KHL playoff games. However, with Metallurg leading the series 2-0, Kunlun must secure at least one victory if fans in the Middle Kingdom are to see any further action on home ice this season.
(Ak Bars leads the series 2-0)
These two old foes produced exactly the same scoreline as they managed on Wednesday, giving Ak Bars a significant advantage to take to Ufa as the action continues on Sunday.
For the most part, the home team was good value for its victory, looking by far the stronger team in the first two periods, only to get pushed back in the closing stages as Salavat sought a way back into the game.
Ak Bars took the lead in the 16th minute thanks to a power play goal from Fyodor Malykhin. Mikhail Varnakov fed his team mate, and Malykhin got around Sami Lepisto before stuffing the puck into the net at the second attempt. But the goal sparked controversy: Salavat’s Igor Grigorenko was convinced that Ak Bars’ Dmitry Obukhov had encroached on the goal crease, while the officials concluded that Grigorenko had pushed Obukhov onto the paint. The visiting forward talked his way into a 10-minute misconduct penalty for his pains.
The middle stanza brought no further scoring, but Ak Bars had far more of the game and at the 40-minute mark the home team was leading the shot count 24-12.
That offensive intent paid off with a second goal at the start of the final session. Vladimir Tkachyov caught Lepisto in possession in the Salavat zone, and dropped the puck off between the hash marks for Mikhail Glukhov to fire in.
But if Tkachyov’s pick-pocketing skills created his team’s second goal, he fell victim to a similar ploy in the 52nd minute. Enver Lisin committed the larceny on this occasion, stealing the puck as Tkachyov tried to carry out of the Ak Bars zone. Without a moment’s hesitation, Lisin rushed for the net and forced the puck between goalie Emil Garipov and D-man Damir Musin to halve the arrears.