(Traktor leads the series 3-1)
Neftekhimik came into this game under intense pressure. Trailing 3-0 in the series, it had to win – but would have to do so without four players, suspended following the riot of penalties incurred in the 2-3 loss on Wednesday. Ildar Shiksatdarov, Kamil Fazylzyanov, Bulat Shafigullin and Alexander Bryntsev all missed out, while head coach Andrei Nazarov faced a barrage of criticism for his team’s performance after seeing his team collect the bulk of the 249 PIMs issued in the game.
In the face of advertisty, though, Neftekhimik responded strongly. The latter stages of Wednesday’s game had seen Nazarov’s team battle back from 0-3 to 2-3 without managing to salvage anything; Thursday began with Andrei Sergeyev putting Neftekhimik ahead with a power play goal in the 13th minute. The defenseman met Robin Hanzl’s pass with a powerful slap shot from inside the right-hand circle. Now, there was a chance to at least extend the series and bring the action back to Chelyabinsk on Sunday.
The second period saw Neftekhimik build a commanding lead. Traktor’s goalie Pavel Francouz picked up an injury during the first period as he made a save from Andrej Nestrasil, and Vasily Demchenko came in to replace him. Marat Khairullin doubled the advantage midway through the session as he circled Traktor’s zone before shooting home from between the hash marks. Three minutes later, Ilya Arkalov added a third, leading a 3-on-2 counter-attack and opting to shoot himself, beating Demchenko high on the stick side.
Traktor got its chance on the power play, and pulled one back before the second intermission. Igor Polygalov did the hard work to stop Neftekhimik clearing its lines, then collected a Richard Gynge feed and scored at the second attempt. In the third period, the visitor worked hard to try and salvage the game – and potentially wrap up the series on the night. However, Traktor managed just one more goal, Igor Isayev scoring his first KHL goal in the 56th minute to make it a nervous finish for Neftekhimik. Nazarov & Co found some answers for their critics, and the series continues on Saturday in Chelyabinsk.