Andy Potts,
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Traktor Chelyabinsk 4 Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 3 (1-1, 3-1, 0-1)

(Traktor wins the series 4-1)

Traktor won its first playoff series since 2013’s run to the Gagarin Cup Final, finishing off its match-up with Neftekhimik in five games. The decisive passage of play here came in the early stages of the second period, when three goals in six-and-a-half minutes put the game beyond reach of a spirited Neftekhimik revival.

Photo: 10.03.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Playoffs. Traktor (Chelyabinsk) - Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)

In a series dominated by discussions about the teams’ disciplinary issues, it was perhaps not surprising that much of the early scoring came on the power play. It wasn’t until Traktor made it 4-1 that we saw an even-strength goal; five of the seven goals on the night came on the power play.

The first goal came after 10 minutes – and it took Ivan Vishnevsky just 11 seconds to convert a Traktor power play. The defenseman smashed home a one-timer off Alexei Petrov’s feed; Alexander Sharov screened Andrei Makarov in the Neftekhimik net. The visitor, though, found a response on its first power play of the game, tying the game through Oleg Piganovich in the 17th minute.

Then came Traktor’s charge. Vishnevsky was involved again as Vitaly Kravtsov made it 2-1 in the 22nd minute; the D-man’s thunderbolt of a point shot was padded away by Makarov, but Kravtsov was on the spot to continue his own encouraging form in post-season. Next, Vishnevsky potted his second of the game, moving along the blue line from the right point before unleashing another devastating slapshot. And, after 28 minutes, Yury Petrov finished off a lightning counter attack to make it 4-1 – the first equal-strength goal of the game, and Traktor’s only score that did not involve Vishnevsky. Alexander Chernikov was the architect of the home counter attack.

At 1-4 in the game, and potentially 1-4 in the series, Neftekhimik needed something big to keep its season alive. Alexander Bryntsev gave the visitor hope with a shot from the face-off shot that beat Vasily Demchenko seconds before the second intermission. Then Alexander Sorokin made it a one-goal game 10 minutes from the end, setting up a tense finale. Demchenko made big saves to deny Andrej Nestrasil, Nikita Filatov and Andrei Sergeyev as the seconds ticked down, and the home goalie was able to celebrate a vital victory with his team-mates when the hooter sounded at last.

Andy Potts,
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Related clubs

Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk) Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
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