(1) Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3
(4) Salavat Yulaev 2
Metallurg leads the series 1-0
Sergei Mozyakin continued his rich vein of play-off form to get the game-winner as Metallurg Magnitogorsk edged a 3-2 verdict in the opening encounter of the Eastern Conference final.
Mozyakin, and his prolific line-mates Jan Kovar and Danis Zaripov, have cut a swathe through the play-offs so far but although Salavat Yulaev was well aware of the threat the defense still failed to close down the Magnitka captain. Zaripov’s pass from behind the goal picked him out three meters from the net and a one-timer was all it took to grab the go-ahead goal in the 27th minute. Mozyakin now moves to 6+11 in 10 play-off games, having previously topped the regular season scoring.
His goal was the first time the home team took the lead: for 20 minutes Salavat seemed to have found the answer to muzzling Magnitka’s mighty first line. The first period yielded just one shot from Mozyakin, and none from his colleagues. The defensive effort was paying off, and the visitor twice took the lead during the opening stanza.
First Denis Khlystov swatted the rebound into an empty net after Anton Slepyshev overpowered Chris Lee and launched a swift counter-attack. That was cancelled out on the power play, with Francis Pare squeezing in a low shot which squirmed between Andrei Zubarev and Andrei Vasilevsky. Teemu Hartikainen put Salavat 2-1 up, but Bogdan Potekhin tied it up two minutes before the hooter.
Coming into the series the two goalies had picked up awards for their performances in the previous round, but Metallurg’s Vasily Koshechkin had the edge tonight. While Vasilevsky might be disappointed with both the goals he conceded in the first period, Koshechkin – one of several players whose hopes of a Team Russia call-up have been revived by the changes behind the national bench – produced one particularly fine stop to deny Antti Pihlstrom an equalizer midway through the second.
After that it was all about careful defense for the home team, limiting Salavat’s chances in the final stanza and securing the first win of the series.