Andy Potts,
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Traktor Chelyabinsk 7 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1 (0-0, 6-1, 1-0)

(Series tied at 3-3)

Disastrous defense from Salavat Yulaev helped Traktor blast to an emphatic victory and send this series off to a decisive seventh game in Ufa on Tuesday.

Photo: 25.03.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Playoffs. Traktor (Chelyabinsk) - Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)

The visitor had the chance to wrap up this Eastern Conference Semi-Final with victory in Chelyabinsk, but after an evenly-matched opening stanza everything went wrong for Salavat Yulaev. In a stark contrast with the previous game, a hard-fought 1-0 victory for Ben Scrivens in a goaltending duel with Vasily Demchenko, this turned into a riot of scoring in the middle frame as Traktor rattled up six goals.

Alexander Chernikov opened the scoring 47 seconds into the period, beating Scrivens with an opportunist strike from the left wing. Two minutes later, Alexander Sharov’s pass sent Richard Gynge clean through with Scrivens, and he beat the goalie through the five-hole to double the lead. Considering that Salavat Yulaev had dominated the opening stanza, outshooting Traktor 13-7 and spending almost twice as long on the attack, the turnaround was sudden and stunning.

Salavat Yulaev tried to respond, and put together an impressive shift in the Traktor zone, but still found itself giving up the next goal of the game after Linus Videll won his face-off and Alexander Shinin smashed the puck home. That was the end of Scrivens’ evening; the Canadian was replaced by Andrei Kareyev.

A power play goal from Philip Larsen gave Salavat Yulaev some hope of recovering the situation – the Dane reduced the arrears shortly after the midway point in the game. But it did not take long for Traktor to snuff out a potential recovery. The visitor contributed to its own downfall, with Grigory Panin taking a minor penalty for boarding, and Alexei Kruchinin duly converted the power play to make it 4-1. Barely 20 seconds later, Kareyev was beaten again after a wonderful pass from Alexander Rybakov handed Semyon Kokuyov a gift-wrapped opportunity to add the fifth. When Nick Bailen made it 6-1, Kareyev had in the space of a few minutes conceded as many goals as Scrivens allowed in half an hour. It was one of those nights for Ufa, and the feeling that nothing was going right was only reinforced when the visitor had a goal ruled out after the video revealed a kicking motion on the play.

The game was beyond doubt, but Traktor still found time to add a sixth goal through Rybakov. His strike with 10 minutes left wrapped up an impressive victory and also tied in with one of the themes of the evening – the end of several extended streaks without goals for Traktor players. Rybakov scored for the first time in 21 games, Chernikov and Kokuyov returned to the scoresheet after 17-game absences. For Shinin, meanwhile, the drought dated back to September 2013 – 182 games ago! If playoff success is all about hitting form at the right time, this group of Traktor players might be doing exactly that.

The series now goes back to Ufa on Tuesday for the final, decisive seventh game. For Salavat Yulaev, it’s a second game seven showdown this year after going the distance against Avangard in the opening round. Meanwhile, in Kazan, Ak Bars awaits its opponent in the Eastern Conference Final.

Andy Potts,
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Related clubs

Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
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