(Ak Bars leads the series 3-1)
The Ak Bars power play made all the difference in this game, contributing all three goals as the Kazan team moved to within one game of playoff progress. Forward Justin Azevedo proved to be the orchestrator of his team’s success, scoring once and supplying two assists as the Eastern Conference’s top seed bounced back from Wednesday’s stumble in Khabarovsk.
Azevedo’s performance moves him to six (3+3) points from four playoff games, and he has found the net in each of Ak Bars’ victories so far in this post season. The Canadian is now just one shy of bringing up 50 playoff points in a KHL career that began with Lev Prague’s Gagarin Cup run of 2014.
His first contribution against Amur today came after 12 minutes. Lurking in the left-hand channels, he exchanged passes with Vasily Tokranov at the centre point before the defenseman fired home the opening goal. Tokranov was also involved in the second Ak Bars goal, seven minutes into the second frame. The D-man quarterbacked the power play from the blue line, and the puck travelled right to Jiri Sekac for the Czech to swing a diagonal feed to the waiting Azevedo. The forward kept up his hot streak by beating Juha Metsola from a tight angle.
The game was not producing high levels of goalmouth action – outside of the power play opportunities that largely fell to Ak Bars, the teams were doing a good job of cancelling each other out in five-on-five play. It was all rather reminiscent of 24 hours earlier, when Amur’s power play delivered three goals in a 4-1 victory; these teams have worked out a lot of each other’s games when at full strength. In the third period, Amur did manage an even strength goal – Kirill Rasskazov bundling home the rebound from an Oleg Li shot – and threatened to make a game of it in the closing stages. However, a 5-on-3 advantage for Ak Bars effectively ended the game in the 53rd minute: Azevedo circled from the point to the goal line before firing a pass for Stanislav Galiyev to make it 3-1.
Ak Bars can wrap up a series win on Saturday when the action returns to Kazan for game five.