Andy Potts,
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A thrilling finale saw Ak Bars snatch a dramatic victory over Salavat Yulaev with just seven seconds left on the clock. Justin Azevedo’s late, late goal puts his team 3-1 up in the series. Kunlun Red Star picked up its first ever playoff victory to keep its series against Metallurg Magnitogorsk alive. The 3-1 success means the teams must continue in the Urals on Thursday. Elsewhere, overtime winners for Admiral and Traktor tied their series against Avangard and Barys.

The Wright moment for Admiral

Admiral Vladivostok 3 Avangard Omsk 2 (OT)

(Series tied at 2-2)

Admiral tied this series with an overtime victory, inspired by a fantastic goal from former Avangard graduate Maxim Kazakov.

The game winner, in the 72nd minute, went to James Wright, but the play of the game undoubtedly came from Kazakov when he tied the scores in the first period.

The youngster, who learned his hockey in Omsk, maintained his record of scoring in every playoff game with a beauty to tie the scores in the first period. There seemed to be nothing much on when Kazakov got the puck in his own zone but the 23-year-old saw the visiting defense back off and took his chance to advance. Having reached the bottom of the circle, he then found the angle to squeeze home a shot at the near post.

That was Admiral’s first highlight of an absorbing game, and Wright delivered another memorable moment in the 72nd minute to give the Sailors victory. Vladimir Tkachyov added to his earlier goal with an assist here, getting behind the net, overpowering his opponent and popping the puck out in front for Wright to put a one-timer beyond Dominik Furch and send the series back to Omsk with the scores dead level.

For Avangard, the scoring came from Anton Burdasov, recalled to the team after missing Monday’s 3-4 defeat. It was a successful return for the player, but not for his team. In regular season, Burdasov’s 25 points from 35 games gave him the best strike rate of any Avangard forward, and today he opened his post-season goal tally with two markers, putting the visiting in front twice in the early part of the game. The 25-year-old opened the scoring in the ninth minute, firing home a Nikolai Lemtyugov pass, and he made it 2-1 with a goal of brutal simplicity as he smashed home Alexander Kucheryavenko’s feed from a face-off in the Admiral zone after 27 minutes.

But penalty trouble saw Avangard give up that lead. A 5-on-3 advantage presented Tkachyov with the equalizer. Patient play around the Omsk net ended with Jonathon Blum’s diagonal pass to Tkachyov, who smashed the puck home from the left-hand face-off spot to tie the game.

There was no further scoring in regulation, although Admiral’s Ilya Ivanov might have won it midway through the third had it not been for some brilliant last-ditch defense from Avangard. Instead the game went to overtime, and Wright delivered the win for Admiral.

28.02.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Admiral (Vladivostok) - Avangard (Omsk region)

Kunlun keeps the series alive

Kunlun Red Star 3 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 1

(Metallurg leads the series 3-1)

The defending champion’s hopes of sweeping into the Conference Semi-Finals hit a bump as Kunlun delivered a memorable victory in Beijing.

Roared on by a crowd of over 7,000, the KHL newcomer got its first ever post-season win and avoided a white-wash in its inaugural playoff series.

Drawing on the kind of determination that put the team into the top eight in the Eastern Conference, Vladimir Yurzinov’s men produced stout resistance on defense and some clinical finishing when chances came at the other end. And, this time, there were no costly lapses in concentration as Red Star held on for the win.

The home team struck first, taking the lead in the ninth minute when Martin Bakos found enough space in front of the net to deflect Joonas Jarvinen’s feed beyond Vasily Koshechkin. But Metallurg had far more opportunities in the opening stanza, outshooting the host 13-5 and testing Tomi Karhunen in the Kunlun net.

Those efforts came to naught, and Chad Rau, Kunlun’s leading scorer in the regular season, got his first of the playoffs to make it 2-0 in the 20th minute. Linus Videll launched another marauding raid down the right channels before finding Tuukka Mantyla. The Finn’s defense-splitting pass picked out Rau in the left-hand circle with Koshechkin out of position at the near post.

Early in the second period, Tommi Taimi’s power play goal extended Kunlun’s lead and chased Koshechkin from the net. The middle session was more evenly-matched than the first, with Kunlun creating further opportunities to extend its lead, only to be pegged back in the final seconds. Viktor Antipin got the goal, also on a power play, when he deflected Chris Lee’s shot beyond Karhunen.

But there was to be no revival this time for Magnitka. The third period was dominated by defense, with Metallurg’s powerful forwards able to manage just eight attempts on Karhunen’s net. The fearsome Mozyakin-Kovar-Zaripov line was limited to a solitary shot as the home team treated Chinese fans to a win to remember.

28.02.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Kunlun Red Star (Beijing) - Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)

Azevedo late show stuns Salavat Yulaev

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1 Ak Bars Kazan 2

(Ak Bars leads the series 3-1)

Salavat Yulaev fans might not agree right now, but the closing seconds of this absorbing game demonstrated just what playoff hockey is all about. High stakes, fierce rivalries and wildly swinging emotions, and all in the space of 40 seconds. It was an unforgettable finale to the latest hard-fought encounter between these teams.

The roller-coaster picked up speed on 59:16 when Kirill Kaprizov tied the scores for the home team. Ak Bars, ahead for so long, and within touching distance of taking a 3-1 lead in the series, was undone by Russia’s latest teenage prodigy. Salavat set up for one last, desperate push. Linus Omark and Sami Lepisto exchanged passes, probing for the gaps in the Ak Bars defense. A lane opened up for Omark, and he drilled the puck into the danger zone, where Kaprizov met it between the hash marks and turned it past the reach of Emil Garipov. Delerium among the home fans, frustration on the visitor’s bench.

Frustration, disappointment, but not despair. Ak Bars refused to buckle. Perhaps uniquely in the arena, the visiting players did not assume overtime was a certainty. With 44 seconds left, they went out to try to win the game at the first time of asking. After a home attack foundered on the blue line, the visitor went for broke. Not thought of shepherding the puck through to the hooter, Jiri Sekac advanced and dumped the puck into the corner. Justin Azevedo chased it down and battled to bring play onto the slot. Vladimir Tkachyov had a shot charged down, Azevedo skated round to pick up the rebound and shoot into the net with seven seconds left to play. Suddenly it was the small group of Ak Bars fans who were dancing in disbelief and delight. The home support, stunned, was left to contemplate a trip to Kazan to save the series on Thursday.

Salavat did get advance warning of the threat posed by that trio. Azevedo, Sekac and Tkachyov combined to give the visitor the lead in the 16th minute of a lively first period. Ak Bars took advantage of a power play to establish a strong attacking position before Azevedo fed Sekac. The Czech saw his shot blocked, but the puck bounced kindly for Tkachyov to fire in the rebound.

However, the opening session – which had produced a steady stream of penalties – ended with the visitor in difficulty. A ruckus in the final minute saw the trio that combined for the opening goal reunited in the penalty box, with the home team’s Mikhail Vorobyov also going to cool his heels. For Salavat, a two-minute spell of 5-on-3 hockey, spanning either side of the intermission, offered a golden opportunity to get back into the game. The chance was not taken; Kaprizov’s late reprieve was also squandered.

28.02.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) - Ak Bars (Kazan)

Traktor levels the series

Barys Astana 1 Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 (OT)

(Series tied at 2-2)

This intriguing series is deadlocked once again after Traktor dug deep to find an overtime winner in Astana.

Alexei Petrov got the decisive goal in the 66th minute, handing his team a vital victory to square the situation ahead of Thursday’s game in Chelyabinsk. Alexander Tridchikov advanced to the point and smashed in a shot that Henrik Karlsson could only beat up into the air. Derek Roy recovered possession and fed Petrov who had taken up a dangerous position in front of the net and was free of any defenseman. The finish was emphatic, the goal decisive.

Earlier, Traktor took the lead midway through the game thanks to Paul Szczechura. Maxim Yakutsenya carved out the opening, drawing the Barys defense across the face of goal as he broke down the left channel and slalomed between opposing players. Then, rather than shoot in full sight of Karlsson, he slipped the puck to the wide open Szczechura who deceived the goalie with some stick handling and pinged a shot into the net.

But Barys, backed by another big crowd in Astana, came out for the second period and produced a dominant display. The home team was 14-2 up on shots, and got its reward through Nigel Dawes’ fourth goal of the playoffs. Dawes missed a great chance with a penalty shot after being fouled by Kirill Koltsov, but needed just seven seconds to put the record straight. Barys won back possession right away, Dawes exchanged passes with Kevin Dallman at the point and rushed into a shooting position in the left-hand circle. From there he produced a finish to beat Pavel Francouz and level the scores with seven minutes to play. This time, though, it wasn’t enough to salvage a result from the game.

28.02.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Barys (Astana) - Traktor (Chelyabinsk)

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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