A thrilling game in Moscow saw the clash between CSKA and Metallurg Magnitogorsk finish 4-3. Jan Mursak got the winner as CSKA claimed a measure of revenge for its Grand Final loss in 2016. Elsewhere SKA outlasted a Traktor fightback while Salavat Yulaev’s slump continued with defeat at Severstal.
Last season there was little to separate CSKA and Metallurg in the Gagarin Cup final; this time, as the regular season comes to an end, there was nothing much between them in their latest encounter. A game that featured controversy and goals was the perfect way to whet the appetite for the playoffs.
Like that final series, the score ended 4-3, although this time it was CSKA coming out on top. And like the final series, there were plenty of twists and turns before Jan Mursak grabbed the overtime winner.
The opening was cautious – it took 26 minutes for Geoff Platt to open the scoring. Then came the first key moment. Igor Ozhiganov was ejected from the game for checking from behind, and Magnitka took full advantage of the penalty. Sergei Mozyakin tied the game and Oskar Osala put the visitor 2-1 in front.
Early in the third period the teams traded more power play goals, with Stephane Da Costa tying the game only for Mozyakin to get his second of the night. It seemed that it might be enough for Metallurg, but as the game entered its final minute, Platt got his stick onto a powerful shot from Denis Denisov, beating Vasily Koshechkin to force the extras with 35 seconds left.
Into overtime, and the initiative lay with CSKA. Mursak got the winner in the 64th minute, firing in a one-timer off a Kirill Petrov feed to settle a pulsating encounter.
A rousing recovery from Traktor added some intrigue to a game that SKA seemed destined to win by a big margin.
The home team was looking comfortable with a 5-0 lead early in the final stanza, but Traktor belatedly found its game to reduce the deficit.
Jiri Novotny got one back in the 48th minute, but after quick-fire goals from Kirill Koltsov and Artyom Penkovsky made it 3-5 with four minutes left, SKA called a time-out in a bid to regain control of the play. Koltsov finished with 1+2, having had a hand in all three Traktor goals; 21-year-old Penkovsky claimed his fourth goal of the season, making it his most productive in the KHL to date.
It wasn’t enough, though. SKA saw out the closing stages with little more alarm and claimed the victory on the strength of its dominance over the first 42 minutes. Vadim Shipachyov’s power play goal broke the deadlock late in the opening stanza, with Nikita Gusev quickly adding a second. Nikolai Prokhorkin scored twice either side of the second intermission, and Evgeny Ketov added a fifth to have the home fans purring.
Salavat Yulaev may not be in serious danger of missing out on the playoffs, but a run of seven straight defeats and just two wins from 11 games in 2017 gives cause for concern in Ufa.
Today’s loss, in overtime at Severstal, came despite the boost of an early lead thanks to Linus Omark’s sixth-minute opener on the power play.
The home team recovered in the second period, scoring successive power play goals midway through the game to make it 2-1. Maxim Trunyov and Pavel Chernov found the net, and Salavat had that all too familiar losing feeling once again.
Yet another PP led to Dmitry Makarov’s equalizer early in the third, but once the game went to overtime Severstal had far more of the play. The host had already fired in five shots on Andrei Gavrilov’s net before Vojtech Polak found the net for the only equal-strength goal of the game.