A new record is set for the longest clash in Gagarin Cup history.
(4) Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2
(1) Avangard Omsk 3 3ОТ
Series tied 2-2
No-one was in any doubt about the crucial nature of this encounter. “Of course, no-one knows which way this game will go,” said Omsk head coach Raimo Summanen, “But it will decide a lot in the series.”
Many supporters were predicting overtime, but no-one could have imagined that this would be the longest duel in all KHL history, an epic lasting 109 minutes and 11 seconds. The previous record was set in last year’s series between Ak Bars and Barys, on the 11th of March 2010, when the two teams spent 104 minutes 39 seconds on the ice.
Even the line-ups gave a hint of the serious battle which lay ahead: the Metallurg team sheet showed that alongside Oleg Kvasha and young Pavel Zdunov in the fourth attacking trio would be the always reliable (not fully fit though) Tomas Rolinek, while Enver Lisin, making his return after injury, would link up with Alexei Kaygorodov and Denis Platonov.
Raimo Summanen also modified his three-pronged attack, sacrificing Dmitry Semin and sending Alexei Kaluzhny into the first line with Igor Volkov and Yegor Averin, while Anton Kuryanov, who sat out the previous game, took the place of the Omsk captain in the second attacking trio. As for the last line of defense, the boss once again put his trust in Karri Ramo, whom he pulled in favor of Alexei Kuznetsov during Game 3.
Having started in tentative mood and playing out of defense for most of the first period, the two teams suddenly burst into life a minute before the break. First Roman Cervenka opened the scoring, but within 30 seconds the Omsk men’s lead was wiped out by Gleb Klimenko’s leveler.
The next twenty minutes was livelier and faster than the first, and halfway through the period Stanislav Chistov got the better of Denis Kulyash and his shot sailed in past Ramo, who had strayed too far from his goal. The scoreboard soon changed again, however, as Kulyash finished off a fine attacking move by the visitors with a pinpoint shot into the near corner of the net.
Then the goal drought began, and it continued for 73 minutes and 48 seconds. The deadlock was finally broken during the third overtime when Andrei Pervyshin’s strike from the blue line found the target.
“I’d never played in so many overtimes before,” said Avangard forward Vladimir Pervushin. “It’s tough. You have to play in shorter shifts to keep yourself fully fit. The series has turned out with us losing twice at home and having to come here needing to dig out two life-saving victories. The responsibility put pressure on the Magnitogorsk guys, so that today they were quicker. It’s great that we won. Now we’ll get ourselves ready for the next game.”
Raimo Summanen took the following view: “The game today dragged on and on, but the win was sealed in a single second. The guys are very tired. Both teams played well today, there was not much to choose between the sides but we had more luck. We’re happy to have won; it was proof of our character.”
His counterpart at Magnitogorsk, Kari Heikkila, could not hide his disappointment: “Defeats like this are always hard to take. Our concentration was good, it was a battle, there were chances to score. No-one expected a result like this. Unfortunately, today we ran out of players – our bench is getting shorter and shorter, with too many injuries. To play epic games like these you have to have more grafters. Everyone who played today gave one hundred percent, no question about that.”
Anton Chaika, Magnitogorsk
(3) Salavat Yulaev Ufa 0
(2) Ak Bars Kazan 4
Salavat Yulaev lead the series 3-1
Game 4 of this Tatar-Bashkir contest, despite the predictions of many, did not turn out to be the decider. What is more, Ak Bars hit back at Salavat Yulaev in quite assured fashion, although the gulf between the two teams was not as wide as the scoreboard suggests. The visitors were helped by the fresh legs brought in for this game, with Alexei Badyukov and Dmitry Obukhov replaced by Jonas Andersson and Marcel Hossa.
“We’re already preparing for the Game 5 in Kazan, where we’ll be playing to win, and where winning is far from easy, especially when you consider the hockey they showed in today’s match,” was Ufa head coach Vyacheslav Bykov’s comment straight after the game.
“Do you blame the Kozlov – Schastlivy – Nilsson line at all?
“I won’t do that, since the game was lost by the whole team. We can play better. Right now I don’t want to single anyone out for praise or criticism.”
“Of course it’s really unpleasant trailing 0-3 in a series; however, our team today showed that we’re not dead and buried and we showed our class,” was Ak Bars head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s reflections on the night. “Which was the key moment in the game? I think it was Morozov’s goal. The players we brought in fully justified their places.”
One of the most impressive performances came from the visitors’ goaltender Petri Vehanen. Remember, in previous games in this series some of the most fulsome praise has been lavished on his opposite number at Ufa, Erik Ersberg. “Over the last few seasons Vehanen has always been a good player, so his performance tonight was nothing new for us. In this series a lot is often decided by the goaltenders,” noted the Ufa captain Viktor Kozlov. “Does our opponent now have the psychological advantage? Well, I don’t think they ever were upset. They play really good hockey. But we have an excellent team.”
“After that quick goal at the start of the period we were a bit muted,” admitted Alexander Svitov, one of the few Salavat players whose performance on the night could not be criticized. “The goals after that were down to us, we made a lot of mistakes. We need to be more organized in the next game, since whoever scores first in these games has a huge advantage. And to fight back from two or three down against a team like Ak Bars is a really tricky task. We really had the desire to do it, but we just made more and more mistakes which ended up with us allowing another goal. I can say that the Kazan guys were faster than us today, and that’s why they had fewer penalties.”
It was the first perfect game of the series from the Ak Bars defense, who looked equally impressive whether at even strength or short-handed. “They always say that you must play to the final siren no matter what the score is, which is what we’re going to do,” Kazan defenseman Alexei Yemelin assured us. “Did I see last year’s NHL play-off series between Philadelphia and Boston? I didn’t see it, but I heard about it.”
“Last year you were superb in the play-offs, even picking up five points in one game.”
“Yes, but it’s harder to score so many points now. Salavat Yulaev are not HC MVD; then it was completely different. Anyway, our mission now is to allow fewer goals, not score more.”
Andrei Lopata, Ufa