Andy Potts,
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Salavat Yulaev Ufa 6 Avangard Omsk 4 (3-0, 1-2, 2-2)

(Salavat Yulaev leads the series 1-0)

Both these teams had good and bad streaks in the regular season. At times, both forged ahead at the top of the Chernyshev Division; at others, the two clubs played on their fans’ nerves as a playoff place looked to be in doubt. And, in this opening playoff engagement, the teams replayed that sequence in microcosm, mixing great passages of play with alarming lapses. Salavat Yulaev allowed a three-goal lead to slip before securing its victory; Avangard slumped to a seemingly hopeless position before rallying hard to tie the game. Both teams lacked consistency but will have grounds for optimism going into tomorrow’s meeting.

Photo: 04.03.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Playoffs. Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) - Avangard (Omsk region)

The early play was all about the host. Salavat Yulaev wasted little time in converting a strong finish to the regular season into a bright start to post-season. Stanislav Gareyev opened the scoring in the fifth minute, then Maxim Mayorov and Teemu Hartikainen added two more in the space of 43 seconds to bring Dominik Furch’s evening to an end in the 12th minute. Hartikainen went on to finish with five points from the game; Mayorov’s goal was the only one to which he did not contribute.

Before the Finn could continue his scoring streak, Avangard hit back. A power play goal early in the third saw Dmitry Kugryshev reduce the deficit and 41 seconds later, Maxim Mineyev made it a one-goal game after Andrei Stas went around the back and served up a dish for his team-mate to polish off. Suddenly, it was the home team with plenty to worry about, until Hartikainen created an opening for Linus Omark to make it 4-2.

However, there was another little peak from Avangard on the way. For the second time in the game, the Omsk team managed a quick double blast, and this time Pyotr Khokhryakov and Ansel Galimov tied the scores at 4-4. Now, in the 47th minute, it was time for Salavat Yulaev to change goalies, replacing Andrei Karayev with Ivan Nalimov.

A home power play proved decisive: Hartikainen and Omark combined to set up Philip Larsen on the blue line for the game-winner with 10 minutes left. Then Hartikainen got his second goal of the night to secure the verdict, scoring from the slot after Omark’s feed found him all alone in front of the net.

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