A hat-trick for Danis Zaripov and an overtime goal from Yaroslav Kosov gave Metallurg a hard-fought 5-4 verdict over Barys to open up a 2-0 series lead. Ak Bars made it two wins from two on the road in Omsk as head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov celebrated his 1,000th career game behind the bench with a tactical masterclass to seal a 2-0 victory.

Bilyaletdinov celebrates a milestone victory

Avangard Omsk 0 Ak Bars Kazan 2

(Ak Bars leads the series 2-0)

Ak Bars took control of this Eastern Conference Semi-final series with a 2-0 win in Omsk, setting up a 2-0 series lead as the action heads to Kazan next week.

Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s 1,000th game as head coach in Russia’s top league was an illustration of the man’s gameplan. For more than a decade, Bilyaletdinov has built winning teams on solid defensive foundations – and in Omsk his players executed that strategy to perfection once again.

Indeed, after producing just six shots on goal in the first two periods, some might argue that this was almost a caricature of the Ak Bars style, an effort to stifle the opposition taken some way beyond its logical conclusion and inviting allegations of harming the game by virtue of its commitment to defensive caution and patient counter-attacks.

But the key feature of Bilyaletdinov’s coaching career is not defensive play and shut-outs, it’s victories. And, not for the first time, his tactics came up trumps in a big game. Ak Bars played a waiting game, allowing the home team to see wave after wave of offense crash against a wall of visiting D-men before capitalizing late on as fatigue and frustration took its toll on the host.

For much of the meeting the visitor concentrated on neutralizing the threat posed by the likes of Vladimir Sobotka and Anton Burdasov, key figures among the Avangard forwards at various stages of this season. That task was accomplished successfully: the home team kept Emil Garipov busy in goal, but rarely carved open the visiting rearguard to expose the netminder to series danger. Then, as the game moved into the last 10 minutes, the Ak Bars offense stealthily moved into action. Mikhail Varnakov tested Domink Furch from long range, Jiri Sekac went close with a chance off a rebound and Vladimir Tkachyov got free but could not beat the goalie from a tight angle.

Suddenly, there was pressure on Avangard. Mikhail Yunkov picked up a hooking penalty, and for the first time in the game, Ak Bars had a power play – with four and a half minutes to play.

That was the chance the visitor needed. Fyodor Malykhin grabbed the vital goal in the 57th minute. Justin Azevedo teamed up with Tkachyov behind the Avangard net to get the puck back out in front; Malykhin, centrally positioned just inside the right-hand circle, despatched a one-timer past Furch.

Avangard, facing the prospect of giving its rival a 2-0 lead before the action moves to Kazan, looked for inspiration in the closing minutes. Off came Furch as Fyodor Kanareikin called a time out to try to inspire his team to an equalizer. The gamble failed: Michal Jordan won back possession on the boards and, from inside his own zone, sent the puck all the way up the ice and into the empty net. Victory for Ak Bars, 2-0 on the night and a 2-0 lead in the series with home ice advantage to come.

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

Zaripov hits a hat-trick, but Kosov sinks Barys

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 5 Barys Astana 4 (OT)

(Metallurg leads the series 2-0)

Yaroslav Kosov grabbed an overtime winner for Metallurg, settling a shoot-out between two of the KHL’s top strikers. In regulation, Nigel Dawes scored two fine goals for Barys, only to be outdone by Danis Zaripov’s hat-trick for Magnitka. That left a roller-coaster game tied at 4-4 after 60 minutes, and set the stage for Kosov’s big moment.

It came on 68 minutes, wrapping up a strong Metallurg performance in overtime. Evgeny Timkin created the chance, breaking down the right channel and swinging a pass across the ice to the waiting Kosov at the far post. One look at the net was all he needed to beat Henrik Karlsson and secure the win.

Regulation time was dominated by Zaripov. He completed his treble in the third period to overturn a 3-2 lead for Barys. The forward’s big day started early, though, giving Metallurg a fifth-minute lead after Jan Kovar’s pass sent him into a duel with visiting goalie Henrik Karlsson. But the second period turned the game on its head as Barys took advantage of a string of penalities to go in ahead at the second intermission.

Barely a minute into the middle session, Roman Starchenko’s power play marker tied the scores on the night and gave Barys its first goal in this series. Viktor Antipin reinstated the home team’s advantage with a curious goal midway through the stanza, enjoying a slice of luck as Karlsson fumbled a gently looping shot into his own net. But Metallurg’s lead did not last long. Two goals in a minute saw Barys in front as it cashed in on a passage of four-on-four play. Nigel Dawes deked his way past Jan Kovar on his way to the equalizer, and moments later Marty St. Pierre stunned the home crowd by converting the rebound from Maxim Semyonov’s shot.

Zaripov responded with two power play goals, the first created by a superb defense-splitting pass from Sergei Mozyakin, who marked his return to the roster with three assists. The Barys defense did not know how to handle Zaripov’s threat, and paid the price again on 48 minutes when he was left all alone to shoot home the 4-3 goal.

That seemed to have ended Barys’ resistance, but Dawes wasn’t done yet. Astana’s own talismanic forward produced another highlight-reel goal. First, he streaked past Chris Lee on the blue line then advanced into open ice before unleashing a devastating wrist shot that left Vasily Koshechkin with no chance. For the visitor, it offered hope of a reprieve and a vision of taking the series back to Kazakhstan with the scores level. But overtime saw Kosov snuff out that illusion to leave Metallurg in an imposing position.

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

Andy Potts,
exclusive for khl.ru

Related clubs

Avangard (Omsk Region) Avangard (Omsk Region)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Barys (Astana) Barys (Astana)
Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

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