Andy Potts,
exclusive for

Konstantin Pushkaryov set a new KHL record, scoring after 11 seconds to claim the fastest playoff goal as Barys won at Traktor. Ak Bars, meanwhile, left it late: Atte Ohtamaa’s game-winner against Salavat Yulaev came in the last second. It was later still for Avangard as the game in Omsk went into a third period of overtime before Admiral was sunk. Defending champion Metallurg Magnitogorsk overcame playoff rookie Kunlun in the day’s other game.

Filippi at the double to lead Magnitka to win

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 4 Kunlun Red Star 2

(Metallurg leads the series 1-0)

Two goals in seven seconds at the start of the second period defused any danger of the defending champion suffering a shock against the KHL’s newcomer. Tomas Filippi’s second of the game was quickly followed by a marker for Yaroslav Kosov to put the outcome beyond doubt.

It was rough justice for Kunlun, which had adapted well to its first ever taste of playoff action. The visitor made a cautious start, but after going behind in the eighth minute the Chinese team regrouped and threatened an equalizer. Metallurg’s opener came after Chris Lee thwarted an attempted breakaway; his clearance turned defense right back into offense and Filippi raced on to the loose puck before firing over Tomi Karhunen’s glove from the left-hand face-off spot.

That did not dampen Kunlun’s enthusiasm for further raids on Ilya Samsonov’s net, and the young Magnitka goalie was fortunate to escape when Max Warn got his stick on a slapshot, wrongfooting the goaltender but seeing the puck go agonizingly wide of the post. It proved to be Kunlun’s best chance for an equalizer, though, as the middle stanza began with the home team in clinical mood.

Oskar Osala served warning to Kunlun in the 21st minute, spotting a chance to attack as the visitor changed on the fly. Brett Bellemore had to make up ground from his own bench to block the Finn’s shot and keep the score at 1-0.

Not for long, though. Filippi got his second on 21:51, producing a shot similar to his opener. Then Kosov added a third straight from the restart, firing the puck in from the left and enjoying a kind bounce off Joonas Jarvinen’s stick. Andrei Makarov came into the game in place of Karhunen and Kunlun looked to begin the long journey back into contention.

It wasn’t to be. Magnitka continued to dominate, with Kosov hitting the post before Tuukka Mantyla picked up a 2+10 penalty for a high hit on Sergei Mozyakin. That power play saw Viktor Antipin make it 4-0 with a close-range finish off a Danis Zaripov pass.

Kunlun refused to give up, despite facing an almost hopeless task in the final stanza. Mantyla, the Finnish D-man who claimed his team’s first ever game-winning goal in the KHL, added another footnote to Red Star’s history by claiming the team’s first ever playoff marker in the 43rd minute. He repeated the trick in the 50th, to cut the deficit to 2-4, but his ever-dangerous slap shots were not enough of a threat to kick-start a serious revival and Metallurg held on for the win.

Pushkaryov scores fastest playoff goal

Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 Barys Astana 5

(Barys leads the series 1-0)

An emphatic victory for Barys turned the seedings upside down, and saw a new KHL playoff record for the fastest goal. The visitor suffered a blow before the game with the news that Brandon Bochenski would be unavailable for the post-season opener. But the Kazakhs’ offense shrugged off his absence with a blistering start to the game that produced three goals in the first 10 minutes, starting after just 11 seconds.

It was a record-breaker. A crunching hit from Maxim Semyonov in center ice gave Konstantin Pushkaryov the puck and he fired a wrist shot into the left-hand angle to open the scoring. Traktor’s evening quickly got worse. Alexei Kruchinin’s shot was charged down, and Nigel Dawes collected the loose puck and went through unopposed to make it 2-0. A double minor penalty on Vitaly Kravtsov gave Barys the chance to make it 3-0. Kevin Dallman’s shot crashed back off the boards, and Dustin Boyd was there to force the rebound into the net.

The clock showed 9:46, and Barys was already well on the way to becoming the first team in this year’s playoff to upset the seeding and claim a road win.

Things did not improve for Traktor. The middle session brought two further goals. Brendan Shinnimin made it 4-0 on the power play in the 22nd minute, ending Pavel Francouz’ evening. Then Vladimir Markelov finished off a lovely passing move to score on Vasily Demchenko for Barys’ fifth in the 33rd. Kravtsov and Yury Petrov got third-period consolation goals for Traktor – the latter despite an appeal to the video official from the away bench – but the day belonged to Barys.

Gutsy Admiral pushes Avangard all the way

Avangard Omsk 2 Admiral Vladivostok 1 (3OT)

(Avangard leads the series 1-0)

Admiral’s post-season record – three victories, eight losses – did not give much cause for confidence ahead of its series with Avangard. Moreover, the struggle that the Vladivostok team had to claim a top-eight finish gave further reasons to fear that all was not well in the Far East. But in the event, Admiral put up a mighty fight against Avangard, taking the game into a third period of overtime and threatening to make a mockery of the seeding when James Wright hit the post in the second period of extras.

Avangard prevailed, finally, thanks to a 106th-minute goal from Alexander Kucheryavenko. He fired home from close range after Anton Burdasov brought the puck out from behind the net, ending this marathon encounter and giving the home side the lead in the series. But Admiral deserves great credit for its valiant effort against an opponent that, on paper, seemed to be far stronger.

It looked like the game was going to plan when the home team opened the scoring in the 10th minute through Jonas Ahnelov. The Swede collected Vladimir Sobotka’s pass, slipped past Robert Sabolic and fired home from between the hashtags. But it wasn’t the cue for the floodgates to open. Admiral continued to focus on its game, kept things tight and began to frustrate Avangard.

The middle stanza brought more of the same, but now the visitor was beginning to create more offense. That brought an equalizer midway through the session. Artyom Zemchyonok kept the puck in Avangard’s zone and passed from the point to Maxim Kazakov. The forward didn’t really hit his shot with full power, but Viktor Alexandrov was screening Dominik Furch and the Czech goalie was disappointed to be beaten from a central position.

As the first period of overtime came to a close, Avangard was desperately close to winning it. Nikolai Lemtyugov’s shot was deflected into the danger zone, and amid a flurry of sticks and skates the puck hit the post and was twice swept off the goal line before Igor Bobkov finally got on top of it.

The second stanza of extras also saw the goal frame jangling, at both ends of the ice. Yegor Martynov hit the post for Avangard, while Wright did the same for Admiral. But Furch and especially Bobkov were in fine form to take the game into its sixth period before Kucheryavenko delivered the final blow with the clocks showing 23:14, local time.

Last second drama as Ak Bars wins

Ak Bars Kazan 2 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1

(Ak Bars leads the series 1-0)

A goal from Atte Ohtamaa right before the hooter handed Ak Bars a dramatic victory in this opening playoff game.

But there was plenty of controversy about the game’s defining moment, with two referals to the video referee required before the game could be decided. The first question, posed by the on-ice officials, was about timing – did the Finn put the puck into the net before the 60 minutes were up? After the officials ruled that he had, the Salavat Yulaev bench asked for a check on whether there was a player offside at the start of the move. Andrei Popov was the player in question – he appeared to be ahead of the play and ultimately deflected Mikhail Varnakov’s shot into the path of Ohtamaa for the game winner. The officials, after long consideration, ruled that the goal was good.

That wrapped up a tense encounter between two old rivals. An indication of the high stakes could be seen from the shot count – in the third period, with the score at 1-1, the teams shared just nine shots on target, with Ak Bars having a slight advantage.

A slight advantage was all it took, though. The home team shaded the opening stanza without securing the lead, then absorbed some pressure in the middle session without giving up a goal. Ak Bars took the lead in the 15th minute, converting the first power play of the night. Justin Azevedo exchanged passes with Vasily Tokranov, teasing out some space in front of the net for Jiri Sekac. Azevedo’s feed into the danger zone was perfectly weighted; Sekac let rip with a one-timer that gave Svedberg no chance.

But Salavat Yulaev did not have to wait long for its chance on the power play, and Kirill Kaprizov tied the scores when he got the vital touch on Linus Omark’s pass. Kaprizov has been a revelation this season, for club and country, and marked his first ever playoff game with a goal. Unluckily for him, it was not enough to take the lead in the series.

Andy Potts,
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Related clubs

Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Admiral (Vladivostok) Admiral (Vladivostok)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Barys (Nur-Sultan) Barys (Nur-Sultan)
Kunlun Red Star (Beijing) Kunlun Red Star (Beijing)
Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
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