Two teams progressed to the Conference Semi-finals, but in very different fashion. Hat-tricks from Danis Zaripov and Jan Kovar powered Metallurg Magnitogorsk to an 8-2 demolition of Kunlun, but it took an overtime winner from Jiri Sekac to lift Ak Bars over Salavat Yulaev. Elsewhere, Avangard thrashed Admiral 6-0 to take a 3-2 lead in the series, while Barys earned a similar advantage after an overtime win at Traktor.

Admiral’s voyage hits stormy waters

Avangard Omsk 6 Admiral Vladivostok 0

(Avangard leads the series 3-2)

After turning the seeding upside down to tie the series with back-to-back home wins, Admiral came crashing back down to Earth on its return to Omsk. A powerful performance from Avangard left the Sailors facing a last-chance showdown on home ice Saturday, with the second seed poised to progress to the Conference Semi-finals.

The damage was done in the first period. Avangard dominated from the moment the puck was dropped, scoring three unanswered goals and allowing just three shots on Dominik Furch’s net. Vladimir Sobotka opened the scoring after six minutes, firing his shot in off the post after line-mates Nikolai Lemtyugov and Maxim Pestushko swung the puck freely around the Admiral zone. Next, Jonas Ahnelov doubled the lead, although Igor Bobkov will be disappointed to be beaten by a weak shot the bobbled in as David Booth provided the screen. Sobotka picked up an assist as Vitaly Menshikov added a third to rubber-stamp the host’s dominance; the Czech recycled the puck off the boards and set up Menshikov on the blue line.

The second period offered little respite, with Booth and Ilya Mikheyev adding further goals to the tally, and the third even enabled Fyodor Kanareikin to give some ice time to understudy goalie Oleg Shilin after Danil Faizullin added a sixth to complete the scoring.

On Saturday, the teams return to Vladivostok, with Admiral needing to find the resilience to bounce back from a heavy defeat immediately, or face losing out in the first round of the playoffs once again.

02.03.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Avangard (Omsk region) - Admiral (Vladivostok)

Two hat-tricks in one game as Metallurg powers into semi-final

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 8 Kunlun Red Star 2

(Metallurg wins the series 4-1)

Danis Zaripov and Jan Kovar both hit hat-tricks as Metallurg’s mighty first line ran riot to settle this series in emphatic fashion. Surprised in China, Magnitka hit back to book a place in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals with a rampant display.

For Kunlun, so impressive in Tuesday’s victory, this was a day to forget after a season to remember. For four games of this series, Vladimir Yurzinov’s team had done a good job of restricting the scoring prowess and Zaripov, Kovar and Sergei Mozyakin, but today the floodgates opened. Four power play goals contributed to the seven markers that the deadly trio shared; this time, there was nowhere for Red Star to escape the onslaught.

It didn’t take long to get the scoreboard rolling over. Zaripov’s wrister on a sixth-minute power play opened the scoring. Come the 10-minute mark and another penalty saw Kovar get his first of the night. Tommi Taimi hinted at a fightback when he pulled a goal back with a shot from the blue line, but barely 30 seconds later Zaripov reinstated Magnitka’s two-goal cushion.

Mozyakin was not going to miss out on his share of the scoring, and added a fourth early in the middle stanza before Kovar got his second to make it 5-1. Zaripov then completed his hat-trick in the 41st minute, converting at the far post after Mozyakin shaped to shoot before threading a pass through a wrong-footed defense.

Yaroslav Kosov was the first player from outside that first line to score for Magnitka, touching home a Tomas Filippi shot to make it 7-1, and any remaining headgear found its way onto the ice a minute later as yet another power play enabled Kovar to match Zaripov’s treble. Chris Lee’s assist on that goal took his points tally to five for the game.

For a time, it even looked as if Magnitka might threaten Ak Bars’ KHL post-season record victory, an 11-1 success at Avangard in 2009, but in the final 10 minutes the scoring stopped. In the event, Kunlun had the final word: Yaroslav Alshevsky got his first ever playoff goal as Kunlun’s memorable rookie season came to an end.

02.03.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - Kunlun Red Star (Beijing)

St. Pierre grabs vital winner for Barys

Traktor Chelyabinsk 1 Barys Astana 2 (OT)

(Barys leads the series 3-2)

Barys returns to Kazakhstan on Saturday knowing that a home win will wrap up this series and see the team progress to the Conference Semi-finals for only the second time in its history.

Another hard-fought game between these two rivals needed overtime to produce a winner, and Martin St. Pierre came up with the crucial goal in the 71st minute. The French-Canadian did it all himself, picking up the puck deep in his own zone, surging down the right channel and firing a shot through Konstantin Klimontov’s legs to beat the unsighted Pavel Francouz from the face-off spot. Traktor appealed to the video officials, claiming offside, but the replays showed that St. Pierre clearly took the puck into the end zone before his team-mates could catch him.

It was the second high-quality Barys goal of the day; earlier Konstantin Pushkaryov gave his team a 13th-minute lead after Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boyd moved the puck sweetly around the Traktor net to create a shooting lane.

That lead did not last; Traktor levelled midway through the game on a power play. Artyom Borodkin got the goal, firing home a one-timer from the deep slot off a Kirill Koltsov pass. At that stage, the home team seemed to be gaining the upper hand in the game, but as the minutes ticked by and the price of giving up a goal increased, both teams became more cautious. The third period saw few opportunities at either end, although Dawes might have won it late on when he got a good look at Francouz only to find the Czech goalie on top of his game. Instead it went into overtime, where St. Pierre found the winning goal.

02.03.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Traktor (Chelyabinsk) - Barys (Astana)

Sekac sends Ak Bars through

Ak Bars Kazan 2 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1 (OT)

(Ak Bars wins the series 4-1)

A year ago, these two teams produced a seven-game thriller of a series before Salavat Yulaev prevailed over its old rival. This time, Ak Bars managed to wrap up a revenge win in five games – but neither side enjoyed victory by more than a single-goal margin in any of those encounters. It’s always tight when these two play.

Game five was no exception. It took overtime to separate the teams, and when the decisive moment arrived it was Jiri Sekac who found the net to send Ak Bars into the Conference Semi-finals. Salavat’s frustration was obvious. After tying the game in the third period, a power play in overtime seemed to give the visitor a great chance to prolong the series. Instead, a penalty against Sami Lepisto wiped out that advantage, and Sekac got the game-winner during 4-on-4 play. Justin Azevedo got over the blue line and flipped a pass in front of his Czech team-mate. Sekac still had plenty to do, evading the attentions of Alexander Loginov and Denis Parshin as he took on Niklas Svedberg in the Ufa net, but he stayed on his feet as Svedberg went to ground and had the composure to finish off the chance.

Ak Bars took the lead in the first period as penalty trouble hampered Salavat. The home team had a 5-on-3 advantage as Justin Azevedo fired in a shot from the blue line. Fyodor Malykhin screened Niklas Svedberg as the initial effort came in, and managed to get a further touch on the puck to take it away from the Swede and open the scoring.

Azevedo was at the heart of another big chance for Ak Bars early in the second period, collecting a defense-splitting pass and shooting at Svedberg from a tight angle, but this time the goalie came out on top and the lead remained 1-0.

From that point on, though, the balance of the game shifted. Salavat Yulaev was forced to look for the goal that might prolong its season beyond this game; Ak Bars was content to win ugly, putting in the hard yards to restrict its opponent’s chances. Resilient defense was the order of the day, with shots flying in on the home net but few of them getting as far as Emil Garipov in the Ak Bars goal.

It all changed in the 52nd minute, when a power play gave the Ufa team a chance to intensify the pressure. Zakhar Arzamastsev finally found the way to unlock the home defense, albeit with the help of a fortunate deflection. Salavat Yulaev was still struggling to get close to the net, but Arzamastsev’s slap shot from the blue line clattered into Stepan Zakharchuk and looped over Garipov to tie the game. Unlike last time, there was no last-minute roller-coaster, despite a couple of good chances for Sekac late on. Instead, it was overtime before Sekac and Ak Bars edged another narrow victory to wrap up the series.

02.03.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Ak Bars (Kazan) - Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)

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