Andy Potts,
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Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2 Ak Bars Kazan 5 (1-1, 1-2, 0-2)

(Ak Bars leads the series 2-1)

Justin Azevedo has previous when it comes to playoff scoring against Metallurg. In 2014, he got on the scoresheet in all seven games of the Gagarin Cup Final when Magnitka ultimately edged Lev Prague to lift the cup. Last season, he was unable to prevent Metallurg from sweeping his Ak Bars team, but today he took command of this game, producing 1+3 as the Kazan team picked up a second big win in three days to move in front in the series.

Photo: 20.03.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Playoffs. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - Ak Bars (Kazan)

It also keeps up Azevedo’s impressive consistency this post-season. Aside from his team’s 1-4 loss at Amur, he has been among the points in all of his playoff games to date. Today’s flurry moves him to five goals and eight assists so far – the kind of dominant scoring that teams need if they are to go deep into any cup campaign.

There were just 51 seconds played when Azevedo made his first telling contribution: collecting a Nikita Lyamkin pass to the slot, he opted not to shoot and teed up the better placed Jiri Sekac for the opening goal. A perfect start, but the next big moment involving the Canadian was a frustrating one. Sergei Mozyakin’s shot flapped off Azevedo’s stick, wrong-footing everyone, and bounced into the net off the luckless Rafael Batyrshin to tie the scores at the first intermission.

After that, though, it was all about Ak Bars – with Azevedo again to the fore. His pass found Anton Lander between the hash marks and the Swede produced a fine shot over Vasily Koshechkin’s glove to reinstate the visitor’s lead. It was another lightning start to a period, and it got even better when Danis Zaripov stole the puck behind the net and got a shot away. That attempt was padded away, but Vladimir Tkachyov was following up and scored at the second attempt – albeit, only just forcing the puck over the line as the video showed. Two goals in 72 seconds, Ilya Samsonov in for Koshechkin, and the home team chasing the game.

Magnitka reignited its hoped in the final seconds of the middle frame when Oskar Osala got his stick on a powerful Denis Kokarev shot and steered it past Emil Garipov. That power play goal made it a one-goal game going into the final stanza, but once again, Ak Bars made a fast start to the next period. This time it was an early power play, and the visitor cashed in when Azevedo fed Vasily Tokranov for a powerful shot to make it 4-2. Finally, Azevedo got a goal of his own, firing in a one-timer from between the hashmarks off a Zaripov feed to wrap up a convincing victory for the top seed in the East.

Andy Potts,
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Related clubs

Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
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