Defending champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk overcame the absence of injured forward Sergei Mozyakin to overpower Barys in the opening game of the teams’ Eastern Conference semi-final. In Omsk, Avangard and Ak Bars delivered a typically tight encounter before the visitor nicked a win in overtime.

Lukoyanov gives Ak Bars an overtime win

Avangard Omsk 1 Ak Bars Kazan 2 (OT)

(Ak Bars leads the series 1-0)

There was more late drama for Ak Bars in a post-season full of last-minute goals, but Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s team shrugged off Avangard’s last-gasp leveller to win this one in overtime. Artyom Lukoyanov got the vital goal 117 seconds into the extras to give the Kazan team the first victory of the series.

Lukoyanov collected the puck after Rafael Batyrshin dumped it in the corner. Holding off the attentions of Pyotr Khokhryakov, the forward managed to circle around to the face-off sport where a shooting lane opened up for him. With Mikhail Varnakov closing in on home goalie Dominik Furch, Lukoyanov’s shot squeezed through the Czech’s five-hole; agonizing for Avangard, awesome for Ak Bars.

Prior to the series between Avangard and Ak Bars, few expected a high-scoring clash. The two teams went into action more or less evenly matched, while Ak Bars had come through a tight, low-scoring series against Salavat Yulaev to reach this stage of the competition.

Those expectations proved to be spot on for the opening game of the Eastern Conference Semi-final. A solitary goal, scored by Ak Bars captain Alexander Svitov just after the halfway point, seemed destined to settle the outcome until his Avangard counterpart Evgeny Medvedev tied the game in the last minute. Chances were hardly abundant at either end: neither team managed more than 10 shots on goal in any period, as both sides focused on careful defense throughout the game. Even the penalty count was fairly low, despite the visitor’s Atte Ohtamaa picking up a minor for tripping inside the first minute.

Svitov’s opener came on the power play, with Ak Bars making use of the extra space around Furch’s net to force home the only goal of the game. Vladimir Tkachyov started the move, marauding down the right and picking out Jiri Sekac in front of the net. Sekac, who had sneaked clear of Vladimir Sobotka, got his shot away; Svitov got the crucial touch as the puck bounced around in the slot.

It looked set to be the winning goal until Avangard’s final push. The home team called a time out in the 59th minute, and Fyodor Kanareikin found the words to inspire his men. Play restarted with a face-off just outside the Ak Bars zone, and Avangard’s six men won possession. The puck was dumped into the corner, Ilya Mikheyev gave chase and passed to Anton Burdasov. Burdasov duly fed Medvedev at the point, and the D-man’s shot flew through some heavy traffic around Emil Garipov’s net to tie the scores on 59:11. Avangard, briefly, had found salvation – but Lukoyanov’s winner soon shattered the home team’s hopes of a winning start.

09.03.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Avangard (Omsk region) - Ak Bars (Kazan)

No Mozyakin, no problem for Magnitka

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4 Barys Astana 0

(Metallurg leads the series 1-0)

Metallurg opened its semi-final series with a comfortable victory over Barys, making light of the absence of leading scorer Sergei Mozyakin to settle the game with three goals in the third period. Tomas Filippi, promoted to the first line in place of his team captain, obliged with Magnitka’s crucial second to regain control of the game as Barys threatened an equalizer.

The home team went in front in the 11th minute of a stormy opening period. The goal, scored by Oskar Osala, came on a power play when Ivan Kuchin became the sixth player to visit the sin bin in the early stages of the game. Alexander Semin manoeuvred himself into a shooting position and, after Henrik Karlsson made the save, Osala dealt well with the awkwardly bouncing puck to steer it into the net as it looped up onto the slot.

But Barys was not about to roll over, despite falling behind at the start of the game. The visitor sought to match its opponent blow for blow, and kept the score to 1-0 until the third period. There were even chances for the Kazakhs to tie the game: early in the final stanza Kevin Dallman tested Vasily Koshechkin from distance before Nigel Dawes fired wide of an unguarded net from a tight angle.

Those misses were swiftly punished: Dawes was still shaking his head over his misfortune when Filippi doubled the home lead. Jan Kovar played a perfectly-weighted pass from blue line to blue line and his compatriot raced onto the puck, shrugged off the challenge of Dallman and swept a backhand shot beneath Karlsson’s pads. Four minutes later, it was 3-0. Kovar emerged from the bench just in time to collect Denis Kazionov’s pass and smash a one-timer from the blue line that gave Karlsson no chance.

By now the game was all but settled. Barys knew that its hopes of snatching a result from the opening encounter of this series were effectively over. Danis Zaripov still had time to add a fourth, scoring on the power play with 20 seconds left, while Koshechkin completed a shut-out with 30 saves to give the defending champion a decisive start to its semi-final series.

09.03.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - Barys (Astana)