After this result you would have expected Oleg Znarok to be a little upset, if not angry, when he came to the press conference. Not a bit of it.
“Who said that a series against Lokomotiv would be easy?” he shrugged, “Today was just one of those things. The third goal broke us. But it is not a disaster.”
The players for the Balashikha outfit were also far from falling into depression. Defenseman Maxim Solovyev seemed taken aback when asked if the advantage was now with the Yaroslavl club:
“They’ve just had a convincing victory.”
“Forget that. The play-offs are a series, not a single game, and the score is 2:2. What’s more, it is better to lose heavily, like today, than to go down 1-0 in overtime.
Looking at the Yaroslavl players, however, it is obvious they feel differently.
“Today we looked a lot fresher,” claimed Alexei Mikhnov, “we kept our heads on our shoulders. In the previous games it sometimes seemed we were up against seven opponents.”
Mikhnov, incidentally, was in the fourth line for this match, as the coach was not satisfied with his performance in the third game. Alexei’s place in the starting five was taken by Richard Zednik, and his performance justified Petr Vorobiev’s gamble.
“He’s already played in such a formation in this championship,” Vorobiev explained, “so we just went back to it.”
But the hero of the day was Josef Vasicek, who gave a sparkling performance, and it was he who made the game safe. His assist for the fourth goal was unique: having won the face-off, he kept control of the puck and passed to Zbynek Irgl.
“No, it’s not something I’ve been perfecting, it just happened like that,” Vasicek smiled, “but before it I told Irgl to get himself out to the far pipe.”
“Good improvisation,” was Vorobiev’s take.
Another curious moment came when a penalty shot was awarded against HC MVD. The foul happened just as the players paused to wait while the officials took another look at Lokomotiv’s second goal. Alexander Galimov's goal was awarded, but the penalty shot was not cancelled.
“I’ve never heard of it happening before,” said HC MVD forward Evgeny Fedorov, “I was sure that they would cancel the penalty if the goal was given. The referees explained to us they have the right to do this and it’s well within the rules, but it was a big surprise.”
“But this wasn’t the reason for the defeat?”
“No, of course not. We didn’t play well, and that’s that. We had our moments, didn’t make use of them, and we gave our opponents too much freedom.”
We must mention that Yaroslavl Lokomotiv’s recently under-fire goaltender Georgy Gelashvili produced a near-perfect game.
“We haven’t been paying special attention to Georgy’s performances,” Vasicek asserted, “and why should we? It’s not just been him alone making mistakes, others are not blameless either.”
In this series, there will be no more sparring. When Vorobiev was asked if his team manages better when playing matches on successive days, he grinned:
“We’ve never played against HC MVD to such a schedule, so I don’t know how it will go this time.”
And that is because in this series no one can predict a single step from either side.