After home rule in the West, both games in the East went to the visitors.
(1) Avangard Omsk 2
(4) Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4
Metallurg lead the series 1-0
In the first half of the opening period both sides scored in power play, but after the two teams proved they could capitalize on numerical advantage, all the remaining goals came at even strength. And having equalized, the visitors quickly added a second, going from chasing the game to leading it in exactly 30 seconds.
“We tried to play out of defense, because we knew that with Avangard playing on their own ice their fans would be roaring them forward, so we would have to grab every chance that came our way, and we did just that,” was how Oleg Kvasha, scorer of Magnitogorsk’s second goal, described the victors’ strategy.
With the game at the midway stage and the scoreboard showing 1-3, Omsk head coach Raimo Summanen was already reshuffling the roster, but in vain. After the game the Finn promised further changes: “We had two defensemen injured in this clash, so we have some gaps to fill. Mukhachev will return, and maybe also Angell, who has been resting a while.”
A strike from Denis Kulyash soon halved the deficit and gave the hosts a glimmer of hope. The defenseman talked about his goal: “We had orders to hit some low wrist shots to get some rebounds. Sometimes you need to get lucky, and this time the puck rebounded just right.”
However, for the remainder of the game – almost half of it – the Omsk men’s efforts were frustrated. And when the final onslaught came and the goaltender was sacrificed for an extra skater, a grateful Denis Platonov directed the puck into the empty net.
“Of course Platonov was the pick of my players today, he did get a hat-trick,” was Metallurg boss Kari Heikkila’s reaction. “He’s playing better in the play-offs than he was at the end of the regular season, and that’s adding to his confidence.”
“We won’t make any excuses. We lost this game ourselves. Today was a different team from the one in Game 7 against Neftekhimik. As for the goals we allowed, we brought them on ourselves. The Magnitka guys hardly did anything, but we deserved to lose,” was how Denis Kulyash summed up the game.
Stanislav Mukhin, Omsk
(2) Ak Bars Kazan 2
(3) Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 ОТ
Salavat Yulaev lead the series 1-0
The 145th meeting between these sworn enemies turned out, like so many previous clashes, to be a real tug of war. The hosts began in whirlwind fashion, and soon the tug rope was edging their way, as Danis Zaripov reacted sharply to a rebound off goaltender Erik Ersberg, who was fending off a tame Konstantin Korneyev shot from the blue line.
The men from Ufa took a deep breath, concentrated, and slowly but surely dragged the rope back in their direction. Well into the second period Igor Grigorenko, left strangely unmarked on the goaltender's crease, had no trouble getting the better of Alexander Stepanov and Petri Vehanen to hit a leveler, and just 21 seconds before the break Miroslav Blatak capitalized on Alexei Yemelin’s dismissal and fired the visitors ahead.
“I enjoyed both those goals,” said Ufa’s forward Vladimir Antipov. “First Grigorenko gave a clever feint to put the keeper on the deck, and the second goal was after a beautifully-worked combination.”
Into the third period, and the rope was once again moving back toward the hosts, as Alexei Morozov ruthlessly punished the visitors for Sergei Zinovyev’s foul. The Kazan men had ample opportunity to inflict further damage, twice finding themselves in power play before the siren sounded, but Salavat kept vigilant and stayed disciplined in defense.
“After Ak Bars wasted their chances in power play and we returned to even strength, we went hell for leather to get a goal,” Antipov recalled. “We had a feeling that our opponents were flagging a little, and we had a real chance.”
And it was none other than Antipov who snapped up the chance, and in overtime. During the first stoppage in play the officials were asked to view a video replay, after which they awarded a golden goal to the visitors.
“I hit the shot and it seemed to me the puck had crossed the line,” said the scorer. “Our guys sitting on the bench felt the same. As soon as play stopped we went to the referees with a request for a video replay. Although even I started to have my doubts, but they were unfounded, thank God.”
“Both teams played well,” Ak Bars head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov gave his summary. “The team which made the most mistakes lost the game. We need to look into our mistakes and get ourselves ready for Friday’s clash.”
Jaudat Abdullin, Kazan