The Kazan men went on the offensive from the very start, and after only fourteen seconds had already forced their opponents to change their line-up, whereas for the whole of the first two periods Salavat Yulaev created just a single dangerous moment, Patrick Thoresen charging straight through the center of the Ak Bars defense with only Petri Vehanen to beat, but the goalie did not let his team down.

In contrast, when Ak Bars were presented with a chance of a powerplay goal after 10 minutes, they took it, Niko Kapanen making no mistake.

The third period was a different story. Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s men were forced to retreat more and more as the hosts chased a goal with maximum urgency, until the home side finally got their way. First Igor Grigorenko grabbed a powerplay goal, and then with just over a minute left Alexander Radulov struck, giving the jubilant fans in the Ufa Arena a reminder of their championship spring of 2008 – the last time this venue has witnessed such emotional scenes.

“We were trying to hold on to what we had, but it was too early,” was Nikita Alexeyev’s view. “If there were only five minutes left, then that would be a different matter, but to go on the defensive for an entire period is just suicidal against opponents like these. We just backed off and let them come at us. We made a mistake, and back at our place we’ll put it right.

“What do you have to say about the refereeing?”
“There’s already been enough talk about that, both from us and from our opponents. What happens, happens. It’s the play-offs. Everyone gets pushed to the limit, including the officials.”

“We have our backs to the wall, and the only way out is to win every remaining match,” was Vyacheslav Bykov’s summing up.

“Why were you so limp in attack for two entire periods?”
“We won today, so nothing else will worry me too much. This is not some back yard outfit we are up against here.”

“Will you continue to rotate the centre of your first line?”
Sergei Zinovyev is not so easy to replace, so we are looking for alternative formations. Today Grigorenko scored – that means in this game he played in the right position.”

“We just didn’t manage to win today,” said Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, succinct as always, at the post match press conference.

“What went wrong with your team?”
“We were poor in powerplay. One of the key moments in the game was when we couldn’t take advantage when they were given a five-minute penalty.”

One of the most talked about moments in this encounter was the dismissal of the home team’s defenseman Dmitry Kalinin, sent off for dangerous play in a challenge with Dmitry Obukhov:
“I don’t remember all the details of the incident, I’d need to see a replay,” Kalinin admitted, “But I didn’t purposefully set out to hit my opponent, I was just trying to fend him off.”

Andrei Lopata

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