(Salavat Yulaev leads the series 2-1)
Three goals in four minutes turned this game around and put Salavat Yulaev ahead in the series for the first time. The triple salvo from the visitor came early in the third period, wiping out Traktor’s 2-0 lead and setting the Ufa men on the way to their second victory of the semi-final. Mikhail Yunkov, once a Gagarin Cup winner with Metallurg, continued his habit of frustrating Magnitka’s local rival with two of the goals.
But the game started with Traktor in the ascendancy. The first frame saw the home team dominant, with Ben Scrivens making 15 saves in the Salavat net while the visitor mustered a mere four shots on target. Nick Bailen and Richard Gynge had perhaps the best chances for the home team to get ahead, but they fluffed their lines and the teams went into the first intermission without a goal between them.
The middle frame changed all that, with Traktor getting up early on and doubling its lead midway through the game. The ever-dangerous Kravtsov-Kruchinin-Sharov line was at the heart of the scoring once again – between them, Kravtsov and Kruchinin, Traktor’s special K’s, have now picked up points in each of the last four games. First, Alexei Kruchinin opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, beating Scrivens with a backhand effort. Then he quarterbacked the play that brought Alexander Sharov his first goal in 27 games as Traktor went 2-0 up in the 32nd minute. Vitaly Kravtsov had assists on both plays, taking the 18-year-old’s playoff tally to nine (6+3) points.
Expectations of a comfortable home win were confounded early in the third, however. A superb rush from Maxim Mayorov, taking out two defensemen on his way to the net and dropping a no-look pass onto the slot for Yunkov to force the puck home. There was a review to confirm that Yunkov had not kicked the puck into the net, but the officials found no problem and the goal stood.
Next came Salavat’s Nordic trio, converting a power play chance in the 46th minute. Teemu Hartikainen sent the puck behind the net for Joonas Kemppainen, and the Finn picked out Linus Omark in the right-hand circle. He duly wired a wrister high to Pavel Francouz’s short side from a tight angle to level the scores.
Barely a minute later, the visitor was in front and Yunkov was the scorer once again. It was another close-range finish, and another goal created by a brilliant feed. This time defenseman Philip Larsen delivered the pass from the corner, threading the puck onto Yunkov’s stick and giving Francouz no chance to react.
Thus, in just his second appearance of this year’s playoffs, Yunkov matched his tally of two goals in 24 regular season games for Salavat Yulaev. More importantly, he delivered a game-winning performance to put his team ahead in the series. Traktor has a chance to tie things up again tomorrow, then it’s back to Ufa for game five on Friday.