(Salavat Yulaev leads the series 3-2)
A solitary goal from Anton Burdasov earned Salavat Yulaev a hard-fought victory – and gives the Ufa team a chance to book its place in the Eastern Conference Final if it can win in Chelyabinsk on Sunday.
The 54th-minute goal was all about a quick transition to the offense. Traktor, killing a penalty, was content to shoot the puck up the ice, where the home goalie, Ben Scrivens, decided it was time to take a more active approach. Coming well out of his net, the Canadian pinged a long pass for Linus Omark to bring play straight back to the Traktor zone. Omark found Burdasov, and he fired in a rising shot from the deep slot, getting over Vasily Demchenko’s shoulder as Dmitry Sayustov looked to put up a screen. That, coupled with the sheer speed that Traktor’s defense had to react as it changed on the fly and Salavat launched the counter-attack, was the decisive factor on the play – and in the game.
Otherwise, it was a day when goalies were on top. Scrivens made 25 saves in addition to his assist, ending Vitaly Kravtsov’s productive run at last. So far in post season, Salavat Yulaev has been putting on scoring shows rather than demonstrating defensive prowess: this tight victory might be the start of a newly-resolute streak in Erkka Westerlund’s team, something it will surely need if it is to challenge at the sharp end of the tournament.
At the other end, Demchenko, preferred to Pavel Francouz for a second successive game, stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced. He was in action early on, stopping Enver Lisin in the second minute and denying Evgeny Korotkov after the Ufa forward slalomed through the Traktor defense midway through the opening frame. That bright start from Salavat Yulaev soon faded, however. With the series delicately poised, neither side was keen to risk too much on gung-ho hockey and both were content to bide their time and wait for the big moment to come.
In the end, that moment turned out to be a power play after Traktor’s Igor Isayev found himself in the box. Salavat Yulaev converted the chance, and then managed to kill a penalty of its own in the closing stages to keep Traktor at bay and secure the victory.
The series continues Sunday in Chelyabinsk, with Traktor needing victory to keep its campaign alive. For Salavat Yulaev, meanwhile, after completing a seven-game series against Avangard in round one, the chance to get this match-up finished one game earlier would be a valuable boost before preparing for a conference final.