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

(Metallurg wins the series 4-2)

Oskar Osala posted his 100th KHL goal to wrap up the series for Magnitka. And, for fans who like an omen or two, the 4-2 series scoreline against Avtomobilist mirrors Metallurg’s start to the 2016 playoffs when it last lifted the Gagarin Cup.

Photo: 12.03.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Playoffs. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg)

Osala’s big moment came in the final minute, scoring an empty-netter to squash Avtomobilist’s hopes of saving this game and prolonging its first-round series. The Finn cashed in on a slip from Anatoly Golyshev to fire home Metallurg’s third and reach three figures from a KHL career that began at Neftekhimik before moving to Magnitogorsk in 2013-14.

That moment ended Avtomobilist’s hopes, but the decisive scoring came rather earlier. After a goalless opening frame, with the visitor arguably shading the play, Metallurg took control with two goals early in the middle stanza. The first, a tap-in for Evgeny Timkin, owed much to the enterprise of Denis Denisov. The D-man glided into a dangerous position in time to collect a pass from Denis Kokarev, then, rather than shooting himself, he slipped the puck across the front of the net to the unguarded Timkin for a routine finish.

Two minutes later, Sergei Mozyakin doubled the lead. Jan Kovar, in the deep slot, feinted to shoot before picking out Mozyakin on the doorstep. The captain’s initial effort was short of his usual deadly standards, but he made no mistake from the rebound and Magnitka had one skate in the conference semi-finals.

Avtomobilist has never made it past the first round of the playoffs, but the visitor was determined to make a game of it here. Yegor Milovzorov pulled a goal back midway through the game on a break-out play. After Metallurg turned over possession, the Avto forward exchanged passes with Pierre-Alexander Parenteau. For a moment, it seemed that the duo had played one pass too many, but Vasily Koshechkin could not quite get hold of Parenteau’s final effort and Milovzorov slid the puck into an empty net. That kept the team in the contest despite being comprehensively outshot in the middle frame, and the final stanza saw plenty of offense from the visitor. However, there was no way past Koshechkin, even when Michal Cajkovsky thundered in a string of shots on a power play after Dwight King had created an opening that Grigory Dronov could not, legally, deny. Metallurg had its chances too, however, with Andrei Chibisov hitting the bar before Osala secured the victory.

Magnitka joins Ak Bars and Traktor in the next round; the outcome of Wednesday’s decisive game between Salavat Yulaev and Avangard will determine the match-ups for the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Andy Potts,
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