Salavat Yulaev Ufa 2 Avangard Omsk 1 (1-0, 1-0, 0-1)

(Salavat Yulaev leads the series 3-2)

The most intriguing series in the opening round of KHL playoff action produced its first real arm wrestle of a game – and Salavat Yulaev proved that it had the resilience to clinch a tight verdict after a run of high-scoring encounters.

Photo: 10.03.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Playoffs. Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) - Avangard (Omsk region)

Finnish forward Joonas Kemppainen was the key man for Erkka Westerlund’s team, scoring both goals in his team’s victory. Goalie Ben Scrivens also played a big part, making 29 saves to blunt the Avangard offense and put Salavat Yulaev one step away from making the conference semi-finals.

Kemppainen opened the scoring in the ninth minute as Salavat Yulaev profited from a pair of quick penalties against Avangard. The five-on-three power play was just 15 seconds old when Philip Larsen’s perfect pass found the Finn at the back door; his one-time finish gave Dominik Furch no chance.

Avangard managed to kill the remainder of that penalty and keep it a one-goal game until the midway point, but Kemppainen added a second to give the home team some vital breathing space. This time, the Finnish centre did it more or less on his own, surging down the left wing before setting up Enver Lisin for a shooting chance. That effort went wide, and Kemppainen collected the puck and took it around the net before squeezing home a shot from a tight angle while Teemu Hartikainen worried the visiting defense.

The visitor got back into contention with 10 minutes to play thanks to Andre Petersson. Avangard pinged the passes around the home zone and eventually freed up Petersson in space in the face-off circle. He took one step forward and zinged a wrister that whipped past Scrivens and went in off the post. Suddenly, the game was on once again – but Avangard’s hopes of salvaging something were hit hard when Kirill Semyonov took a penalty in the 59th minute. It wasn’t until the final 20 seconds that the visitor was able to pull Furch and ice six skaters, by which time it was too late to force the action into overtime.

Salavat Yulaev can complete a series victory if it wins in Omsk on Monday.

Andy Potts,
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