EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

(3) Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3
(4) Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4

Salavat Yulaev lead the series 3-2
Metallurg once again showed their fighting spirit to reduce the deficit in the series with this victory over an unconvincing Salavat Yulaev, who suffered a total collapse in the second period.

The opening stages had some lively hockey from both teams but first blood went to the visitors, thanks to an effort from Sergei Fedorov. Magnitogorsk head coach Kari Heikkila could not resist singing the praises of the player who has been so impressive all through this series: “For two and a half periods we played very good hockey. But after we allowed the second goal we became passive. I’m pleased with my team.”

“Would it be right to say that Sergei Fedorov has taken it upon himself to be the leader, and he’s the driving force behind the team?”
“Yes, he’s become a different man since the play-offs began. A player with Sergei’s experience needs motivation, and the play-offs are the ideal stage for him.”

Petri Kontiola didn’t play today.”
“He has an injury.”

Salavat needed only a minute to level the score, and they did it with yet another precision strike from the blue line by Miroslav Blatak. The Czech had beaten Georgy Gelashvili with a similar effort in the previous encounter, although today’s was scored in power play.

Not to be outdone, the visitors also gratefully capitalized on the man advantage when Gleb Klimenko supplied the finish to an accurate passing move involving Alexei Kaigorodov and Denis Platonov.

“For us, it could’ve been the final game of the season. We tried to do everything in our power to stop that happening,” said Klimenko after the game, struggling to conceal his emotion. His goal at the end of the opening period completely demoralized the Ufa men. In the second period all was clearly not well with Bykov’s team and they allowed the visitors to add two further goals - one of them short-handed.

“We had a certain excitement that comes from having a great chance to wrap up the series on our own ice. But we just lost our heads,” was Salavat captain Viktor Kozlov’s verdict. “We lacked composure in offense, in front of the opposition goal, and also lacked some discipline in defense. These were the key factors in the game.”

“So what happened to the team in the second period?”
“We really didn’t want to lose, so that’s why we threw everything into attack at the expense of defending. We took a lot of risks. The Magnitka guys were already playing out of defense, and luring us into making mistakes.”

“It seemed that after Metallurg scored the goals their goaltender, Georgy Gelashvili, started playing better…”
“I wouldn’t put it like that, because he was playing well before the goals too. He’s a good goalie.”

In the third period, with the scoreboard showing 1-4, the Ufa men attacked in waves, and even came close to achieving a miraculous fightback, but Magnitka played commendably and did enough to hold on.

For the desperate final assault the hosts had just 13 seconds, and despite Svitov winning the face-off and forcing the play into the visitors’ zone, there was to be no equalizer.

“For two periods we looked timid and even careless, and you just can’t play like that at this level and at this stage of the play-offs,” the hosts’ head coach Vyacheslav Bykov was visibly vexed from the defeat. “In the third we played better, but it was already too late. Overall, I can say we were not in our best form today – simple as that.”

“With the score at 2-4 with two minutes to go did you not want to pull the goalie, or did you not get the chance?”
“At first, he didn’t see me, and then later we’d lost possession, and it was a bit late. But I’d like to have pulled the keeper earlier, for sure.”

Petr Schastlivy is having problems in the face-offs. This even led to one of the goals…”
“Unfortunately, face-offs are not his forte, but he’s working on it in training. The face-off is a seriously important element of the game. So, for example, we often get Sasha Svitov on, because he’s strong in this component.”

“Are you disappointed with Ersberg?”
“No way am I going to blame anyone, least of all the goalie. We’ll have no panic and no fuss, we’ll just get prepare for the next game.”

“It was a good game. After two periods it was clear with that scoreline that Salavat would surge forward and try to save the game,” said Metallurg forward Oleg Kvasha. “The start wasn’t exactly what we’d planned for – we were ready to chase the game for all 60 minutes.”

Andrei Lopata, Ufa

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