A goal from SKA’s in-form forward Evgeny Dadonov midway through a second overtime period brought an end to a marathon third match of the Gagarin Cup final, giving the Petersburg men a 2-1 victory over Magnitogorsk and a 2-1 lead in the series.
When the contest was finally over, SKA's Yegor Yakovlev, Nikita Gusev and Alexander Dergachyov shared their thoughts on the drama.
For the second time in a row, the match began with SKA having all the attacking momentum and Magnitka battling to break out of a first-period siege. The figures for shots on target (18-3 to the hosts) eloquently describe the Army Men’s dominance, but once again, the scoreboard operators were not called into action until the second stanza. It was going to take something out-of-the-ordinary to break down Magnitogorsk’s stubborn defense, and it duly arrived in the 35th minute with Andrei Zubarev’s blistering shot from the red line, which fizzed into the net before a helpless Vasily Koshechkin had any chance of attempting a save. There may have been an uncomfortable feeling of déjà vu for the Magnitka netminder, as he was beaten in near identical fashion in last year’s final by CSKA’s Stephane Da Costa.
Metallurg responded in admirable fashion. Having created and spurned a number of chances, and as the seconds were counting down toward the second interval, the visiting champions silenced the celebrating spectators when Denis Kazionov finished a smart passing move by firing past Mikko Koskinen.
The watching public then endured more than fifty minutes of goalless but agonizingly tense hockey before Evgeny Dadonov‘s 93rd-minute strike gave SKA victory.
SKA defenseman Yegor Yakovlev:
- What do the coaches say to players during such long matches?
“They tell us to make fewer errors. This was the key to victory: we made one fewer mistake than they did, so we won.”
- Mentally, how tough was it to win this game?
“Very tough. We started well with a good first period. In the second we faltered slightly, and we allowed them to score with just six seconds left on the clock. That was quite a heavy blow, but we overcame it in the end. It’s great that we won.”
- Why was SKA misfiring on the powerplay tonight?
“Our opponents have done their homework, studied us, and tonight they dealt with our powerplay very well.”
- Was Zubarev’s goal inspired by the ones SKA allowed from Dynamo Moscow’s Kuteikin earlier in the playoffs?
How hard was it to defend against the physical power of the Osala and Filippi lines?
“It is tough, physically. There are tall guys and they play hard.”
- What impact did switching the goaltenders have on the team?
“No effect at all. Both our goalies are playing very well.”
SKA forward Nikita Gusev:
- You provided the pass for the decisive goal. Were you not tempted to shoot?
“At first, I intended to shoot, but I’d already had around four shots from the slot, with no success, so I changed my mind and passed to Dadonov.”
- For two games running, SKA has had trouble converting shots into goals.
“It means we’re not closing down the goalie and we’re not accurate enough in our shooting. If we get closer to the net, the goals will follow.”
- This was the longest match in the history of the Gagarin Cup finals. Do you have enough energy left for Friday’s game?
“Yes, of course.”
- There have been a lot of goals from the middle of the ice in this season’s playoffs...
“Yes, and today the puck bounced our way. It was our turn to have a little luck.”
- Did anyone make fun of Zubarev? It was his first ever goal for SKA.
“No, we congratulated him.”
SKA forward Alexander Dergachyov:
- Your line has the unenviable task of stopping Magnitogorsk’s first offensive troika, to “stifle” them, so to speak. How do you rate your performance?
“We’ve been coping well, I think, seeing as they have scored so little. But all our lines have been stifling the opposition and battling.”.
- Magnitka’s main danger men are 36 years old now. Did your preparations take their ages into account?
“Peculiar question. Jagr‘s still playing well and he must be 58 by now (smiles.), so it doesn’t matter how old they are.”
- Did you say anything to provoke Biryukov? He seemed to be looking at you with some anger.
“We exchanged a few words, and there’s no need to say anything more. It’s the playoffs, and we should be patient and just shrug off these things.”
- Was it patience that brought SKA this victory?
“Yes, of course. We had to wait for our chance to appear and then we had to take it.”
- After the previous match, you said it hadn’t really registered that you were playing in the Gagarin Cup final. How about now?
- No, it still hasn’t sunk in.”