(Metallurg wins the series 4-0)
Sergei Mozyakin celebrated his 36th birthday in style – setting yet another record and helping his team into its third Gagarin Cup Final in four seasons.
Mozyakin got the third goal for Magnitka on the night, having previously posted two helpers. He reinstated the defending champion’s two-goal advantage in the game, pushed the outcome beyond the home team and claimed his 54th goal of the season. That added one more achievement to Mozyakin’s bulging collection of personal triumphs – it overtook the 53 goals that CSKA’s Veniamin Alexandrov scored in the Soviet Championship of 1962-3 to establish another All-Time Russian record.
It was a poacher’s goal, robbing Damir Musin on the face-off spot, arcing round to the edge of the opposite circle and flinging a wrister onto the top shelf. Emil Garipov, who, moments earlier, denied Mozyakin in a one-on-one, had no chance; history, yet again, was made.
Mozyakin had featured in his team’s first-period goals as well. For the opener, a power play goal in the sixth minute, his pass from the corner enabled Chris Lee to pick out Jan Kovar at the far post and the Czech made no mistake from close range. Five minutes later, another power play, and Mozyakin was marauding out on the right. He fired a pass across the face of the net and, after Kovar’s shot was blocked, Viktor Antipin followed up to double the lead.
Ak Bars refused to give up, pulling a goal back late in the first. Albert Yarullin fired the puck in from the point, Justin Azevedo ended up on his hands and knees as he pushed it into the path of Jiri Sekac and the close-range finish offered the host some hope of prolonging the series.
The fighting spirit endured, even when Ak Bars was reduced to three men late in the middle stanza. Indeed, the home team delivered a master-class of committed penalty kill. Lee collected the puck for Magnitogorsk at the point and was startled to find Stepan Zakharchuk leaping back into the game to challenge him. Lee managed to prevent a dangerous counter attack, but only at the cost of a tripping penalty that wiped out the rest of Metallurg’s power play.
However, the tide was flowing decisively in Magnitka’s favor. The third period began with a fourth goal – and for once Mozyakin wasn’t on the ice for it. Instead Denis Platonov let fly with a devastating shot from the edge of the circle after the puck dropped for him as Denis Kazionov collided with Andrei Popov.
The only thing missing was a goal from Danis Zaripov, on the mark in the three previous games against Ak Bars and tied for the KHL’s playoff goalscoring record ahead of the game. Unusually, Zaripov did not manage a single shot on goal this time, but with a minimum of four more games in this post-season it seems likely that another milestone will be clocked up by Metallurg’s imposing offense.
Metallurg moves on to next week’s Gagarin Cup Final after completing its second successive sweep. In total, Ilya Vorobyov’s team has lost just once in post-season, suffering defeat in Beijing in game four of its first-round match-up with Kunlun Red Star. Now it prepares to face SKA in a match-up between the last two champions in a clash of the titans scheduled to start on Saturday, April 8 in Magnitogorsk.