(Avangard leads the series 2-1)
Johan Sundstrom came to Avangard with a reputation for big-game experience. Twice a Champions Hockey League winner and once a Swedish champion with Frolunda, the 25-year-old also has a World Junior gold medal on an impressive resume.
However, he struggled to make an impact in North America, and came to Russia late in the season looking to boost his profile and forge a more permanent place on Sweden’s national team – and today’s two-goal playoff performance goes some way towards achieving that.
For the third game running, Avangard and Salavat Yulaev traded goals – and Sundstrom’s double helped tip a 5-3 verdict in the Omsk team’s favor. Avangard moves in front for the first time in an absorbing series.
Sundstrom, who made just five regular season appearances after his move from Frolunda, got his first KHL goal in the 13th minute. The home PP got the scoring started when Maxim Berezin’s point shot sparked carnage on the crease and, amid of flurry of sticks, Sundstrom got the final touch as the puck flew past Ivan Nalimov. Another PP, and another mid-season import, and it was 2-0 for Avangard when Teddy Purcell picked his spot in the 35th minute. However, Salavat Yulaev responded within seconds as Grigory Panin halved the deficit going into the second intermission.
Panin reward for that success was to find himself on the receiving end of a head-butt from Ansel Galimov. The Avangard man was ejected from the game, but the penalty did not harm his team unduly. Sundstrom struck again, presented with a straightforward chance after Andrei Stas stole the puck in the Salavat end and left the visiting power play in tatters. Then, with the teams playing 4-on-4, veteran defenseman Evgeny Medvedev produced a finish worthy of a sniper to make it 4-1 to the host with eight minutes to play.
Salavat Yulaev rallied: Joonas Kemppainen and Linus Omark got it back to a one-goal game with 90 seconds left. But home nerves were settled when Dmitry Kugryshev found the empty net and Avangard moved 2-1 up in the series.