Championship class

1 March 2012, 22:14

(4) Ak Bars Kazan 0
(5) Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3
Salavat Yulaev lead the series 1-0
Salavat Yulaev began its defense of the Gagarin Cup with a comprehensive win over Ak Bars. Both clubs had underperformed (by their high standards) in the regular season to set up a clash of the titans in the first stage of the play-offs, but it was the men from Ufa who turned the formbook upside down in Kazan - with the league’s top scorer in regular season action, Alexander Radulov, delivering a hat-trick of assists.

A goalless first period was followed by the Vitaly Proshkin show. The experienced defenseman scored twice, first capitalizing on a two-on-one break led by Radulov then firing in a slapshot from the blue line to give Salavat an unassailable advantage. A third goal from Miroslav Blatak completed the win, while goaltender Erik Ersberg made 27 saves for the clean sheet.

Traktor motors on
(1) Traktor Chelyabinsk 3
(8) Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk 1
Traktor lead the series 1-0
Traktor produced a strong display to see off Yugra in its first play-off game. The home side dominated for long periods, and only an inspired goaltending display from Mikhail Biryukov prevented Traktor from opening the scoring in the first period, while Anton Burdasov thought he had put the hosts ahead only to be denied by the crossbar.

The second period was to prove decisive, though, despite a far more determined attacking effort from Yugra. Vladimir Antipov put Traktor ahead on the powerplay after Biryukov blocked a shot from Konstantin Panov. Yugra found an equalizer on a 5v3 powerplay, Evgeny Khvostov scoring from the blue line, but Traktor was soon ahead again when Stanislav Chistov picked his spot over Biryukov’s shoulder. Andrei Popov completed the scoring early in the third, and it was down to Biryukov to keep the score down in the closing stages as a game total of 52 shots rained down on his goal.

Avangard in a hurry
(2) Avangard Omsk 4
(7) Amur Khabarovsk 2
Avangard lead the series 1-0
Avangard made a lightning start to its play-off campaign, firing home two goals in 53 seconds midway through the first period of its opening game against Amur. The visitors, making their KHL play-off debut, endured a session to forget as Roman Cervenka then added to the tally on 19:08, leaving the Far East side with everything to do in the later stages.

A goalless second session calmed things down, and Amur finally gained a foothold in the game in the third. Dmitry Shitikov scored twice, assisted on both occasions by Mikhail Glukhov, but Alexander Frolov had already made the game safe for Avangard.

Ahonen’s heroics
(3) Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3
(6) Barys Astana 2
Metallurg lead the series 1-0
If reliable defense is the key to play-off success, Metallug can take heart from Thursday’s hard-fought win over Barys. Goaltender Ari Ahonen was the key player, making 32 saves as his team was outshot 34-22, and the Finn held firm in an anxious finale.

It should, however, have been rather easier for the home side after it overcame a slow start to open up a 2-0 lead late in the second session. Maxim Sushinsky and Anton But scored twice in three minutes to give Metallurg control.

Barys hit back on 42:01 through Konstantin Pushkaryov, but that two-goal cushion was reinstated almost immediately by Alexei Bondarev. However, that wasn’t the end of the story: Kamil Kreps dragged it back to a one-goal game on 53:36, and in the closing stages the pressure piled up on Ahonen, only for the siren to halt the Barys recovery.

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