Andy Potts,
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Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 1 (0-1, 1-0, 2-0)

(Metallurg leads the series 2-1)

Sergei Mozyakin brought up his latest milestone, scoring his 500th career goal in this playoff match-up with Avtomobilist. More importantly, his two-point performance earned Metallurg a hard-fought victory to go back in front in this highly competitive series.

The big moment came four minutes from the end of the second period and, not surprisingly, the landmark goal was a clutch goal in the game – and potentially the series. It was a finish familiar to anyone who has watched the master at work, loitering with intent at the far post before firing home a Jan Kovar pass from a tight angle. That tied that game at 1-1 as Mozyakin became the first Russian player to reach 500 goals in the country’s top league.

There was a pleasing symmetry about the milestone as well: last season, in the third game of Metallurg’s playoff first round series against Kunlun Red Star, Mozyakin collected his 1,000th point. Playoff hockey brings out the best in the best, and Magnitka’s captain has always been a man for the big occasion.

Mozyakin, of course, is not just a goalscorer – and he highlighted his value once again with a devastating assist on Kovar’s game-winner. Wojtek Wolski released him and Kovar on a 2-on-1 break; Mozyakin held the puck long enough to force Michal Cajkovsky to commit himself and, once the defenseman was sprawled across the ice, had the vision to put the puck onto Kovar’s tape for a simple finish into an open net. For the second time in the series, Metallurg came from behind to lead. Evgeny Timkin added a third late on to seal the win and put Magnitka 2-1 up after three games.

However, despite Mozyakin’s mastery, this series is by no means a foregone conclusion. After two tight games in Yekaterinburg, this was another arm wrestle. Avto deservedly broke the deadlock late in the first when Anatoly Golyshev fired home Andrei Chesalin’s feed from behind the goalline, and the visitor resisted a storm of Metallurg pressure in the second stanza before Mozyakin finally swung the game in the home team’s favor.

Andy Potts,
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