Eastern Conference semi-finals, Game 6
(4) Ak Bars Kazan 1
(1) Traktor Chelyabinsk 4
Traktor wins the series 4-2
Traktor's wunderkind Evgeny Kuznetsov showed once again why he is becoming the hottest property in Russian hockey with two goals - including a superb solo game-winner - to sink Ak Bars in Kazan and set up a Traktor vs Avangard Eastern Conference final.
Kuznetsov's moment of glory came on 46:33 when he surged from the neutral zone, leaving three opponents trailing in his wake. Then, face to face with goaltender Petri Vehanen, he picked his spot just inside the far post to leave the Finn with no chance and set up a series-clinching 4-1 win for Traktor. Ak Bars' hopes were finally extinguished with 90 seconds to play when Petri Kontiola battled his way past Denis Kulyash and poked the puck beneath Vehanen's pads to make it 3-1, and the scoring was complete when Kuznetsov had the final say with an empty netter.
Earlier, and somewhat against the run of play, Traktor struck first: Ak Bars was looking to force the pace on a powerplay when Niko Kapanen got caught in possession in the center zone. Alexander Popov took full advantage, shooting early to beat Vehanen with a powerful effort from the blue line.
At the other end Michael Garnett was in inspired form for Traktor, keeping Ak Bars at bay until the first minute of the final session when Danis Zaripov - yet again - popped up with a vital goal to tie the game at 1-1. But that duel, one of the most compelling of this series, ultimately ended in the goalie's favor - Garnett's point-blank save from Zaripov in the 50th minute proved to be a crucial moment as Traktor defended its lead.