Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Day one of the playoffs brought plenty of action. In Magnitogorsk it took 100 minutes to separate Metallurg and Salavat Yulaev: Nick Shore’s overtime goal gave the host the verdict. There was overtime too in Yaroslavl, where Georgy Ivanov’s first playoff goal gave Loko the edge against Sochi. Another rookie found the net as Dynamo won at Jokerit with 19-year-old Ivan Muranov on the scoresheet. And defending champion Ak Bars suffered a horrible start to its campaign, losing 0-6 to Avangard.

A Shore start for Magnitka

Metallurg Magnitogorsk 2 Salavat Yulaev Ufa 1 2OT (0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 1-0)

(Metallurg leads the series 1-0)

Nick Shore’s first taste of KHL playoff action saw him pot a dramatic winner in the 100th minute of Metallurg’s first round match-up against Salavat Yulaev. The former LA Kings center stopped the clock 40 seconds from the end of the second period of the extras to snap a 1-1 tie and give Magnitka the edge in this series.

Photo: 25.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Playoffs. Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) - Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)

Shore reacted fastest to the rebound after Pavel Varfolomeyev’s shot was stopped by Juha Metsola on its way to the top corner. The Ufa bench immediately challenged the call, citing goalie interference, but the video review ruled that the goal was good and the game came to an end at last just short of 11 pm local time.

“That was a crazy first game,” Shore told Metallurg’s official site. “We need to build on that, regroup as quickly as we can and prepare for the next game. We just wanted to play our hockey. Sure, we would have liked to look a bit better in the first period but the win was the only thing that matters to us in the end.

“In the next games we just need to take our chances better. We know where they are strong, we know where we are strong, but we need to take convert more of our opportunities.”

These two familiar postseason foes have met in five previous playoff campaigns, with two of those match-ups going all the way to game seven. And on tonight’s evidence we could be looking at another long series here. For much of the game, the play was very even – after 100 minutes of action the teams were tied on 48 shots each. The first period, goalless, saw Salavat Yulaev seize the initiative late on when the home team’s Maksim Matushkin took a double minor for high sticking. In the second, Metallurg broke the deadlock early on through Denis Platonov. The forward began the move behind his own net before two quick passes from Viktor Antipin and Arkhip Nekolenko sprang him into the Ufa zone. Clean through on Metsola, Platonov needed no second invitation.

That goal did not put Salavat Yulaev off its stride, though, and the visitor tied the scores early in the third period. Before the start of the series, Metallurg head coach Josef Jandac had warned of the need to silence the opposition’s top line of Omark, Kemppainen and Hartikainen. That Nordic network showed its worth in the 44th minute as it combined for the goal. Linus Omark played the puck out from behind Vasily Koshechkin’s net, Joonas Kemppainen opted to pass square rather than shoot and Teemu Hartikainen cashed in at the back door as the goalie awaited a shot that never came from the opposite post.

Nikolai Tsulygin, head coach, Salavat Yulaev

It was a really good game, and I congratulate Metallurg on the win. The main thing is to recover and get ready for the next one. There’s not much more to say. We worked, we battled, but we couldn’t get the win.

Josef Jandac, head coach, Metallurg

We scored a fortunate goal and we’ll be happy with that today. And we’ll focus on the next one. Ufa played well, we were a bit nervous at the start and Vasya [Koshechkin] helped us out. It was a real playoff game and I’m pleased that we started with a win.

Defending champ humbled in Balashikha

Avangard Omsk 6 Ak Bars Kazan 0 (2-0, 2-0, 2-0)

(Avangard leads the series 1-0)

Ak Bars has happy memories of playoff action at this arena. Back in the second KHL season, there was where Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s team successfully defended its title against Oleg Znarok’s MVD. Today, though, there was little sign of a title defense in the offing as Avangard blazed to a convincing victory at the start of this eagerly-awaited series.

Photo: 25.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Playoffs. Avangard (Omsk) - Ak Bars (Kazan)

There was little evidence of what would unfold in the early stages, with Ak Bars arguably shading the opening exchanges. However, goals change games. The first home power play of the night gave Avangard a chance to change the pattern and Denis Zernov took full advantage to put away the rebound after a fusillade of shots from long range flew at Vladislav Podyapolsky’s net. The home team doubled the lead three minutes later when Ilya Mikheyev teed up Ville Pokka for a shot from the right-hand face-off spot.

After that, it was all about Avangard. Artyom Manukyan, one of the most highly-rated prospects in the KHL, potted his first playoff goal to make it 3-0 early in the second; Cody Franson added a fourth at the midway point and Podyapolsky was removed in favor of Alexander Sharychenkov. Late in the third period Sergei Shumakov produced a highlight reel moment to make it 5-0. Standing behind the net, he flipped the puck onto his stick and swung it round into the net past a bewildered goalie. That wasn’t the end – a few minutes later he added another, more conventional marker. Ak Bars’ misery was complete; the visitor managed just one shot at Igor Bobkov’s net in the final third as the game ended on a dispiriting note for the Gagarin Cup holder.

Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, head coach, Ak Bars

We understood perfectly well how important it is to start with a win but you saw how it turned out. We made mistakes on defense which led to that heavy loss.

Why did Danis Zaripov not play?

We decided in advance that he wouldn’t be involved in the first game. But he’s fit, he’s ready to go.

Your team seemed keen to fight in today’s game?

Nobody likes losing. When the scoreline looks like that, sometimes emotions run high.

Bob Hartley, head coach, Avangard

We showed some really good hockey tonight. We had a productive couple of days, we finished the regular season on a high but we knew that there were hard games coming. To face Ak Bars in the first round of a playoff is a serious test. Even though we scored six, I’d like to highlight the game of Igor Bobkov who made several important saves. I also liked our special teams today. And maybe we were a bit fortunate that Danis Zaripov didn’t play today. Having a veteran like that on your roster is a dream for any coach.

You said that you came to Russia to win the Gagarin Cup. Do you feel you are closer to achieving that after this game?

Right now there are 16 teams trying to win the cup. We’ve got four important rounds ahead of us and today we merely took our first step towards that goal. We’ll get together tomorrow, have a look at a few things. But we can’t ease off when we’re playing against the most successful coach in the championship.

Loko hits back after Sochi’s strong start

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4 HC Sochi 3 1OT (1-2, 2-0, 0-1, 1-0)

(Lokomotiv leads the series 1-0)

Georgy Ivanov got his first playoff goal to get Loko’s postseason off to a winning start – but the third-ranked team in the Western Conference faced a tough evening against a sixth-placed Sochi team that only secured its playoff place on Friday.

Photo: 25.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Playoffs. Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) - HC Sochi (Sochi)

The 20-year-old featured in nine playoff games last season without picking up a point, but tonight he opened his postseason account in fine style. The extras were just three minutes old when Nikolai Kovalenko burst forward and fired in a shot that Konstantin Barulin could only parry. The puck dropped for the on-rushing Ivanov to slot home the game-winner.

That goal was greeted with much relief, particularly after Sochi stunned a capacity crowd in Yaroslavl by jumping into a 2-0 lead in the first period. Strong play on the slot saw Kirill Kapustin open the scoring in the eighth minute before Jyrki Jokipakka slotted home a one-timer on the power play midway through the frame. It made for a tough start for goaltending wunderkind Ilya Konovalov in his first playoff appearance.

Before long, though, veteran goalie Konstantin Barulin had something to complain about at the other end. He was certain that he had stopped Staffan Kronwall’s point shot between his pads but somehow allowed the puck to slip through his defenses under pressure from Grigory Denisenko. The officials had little sympathy; the Swedish defenseman collected the first of three points for the evening.

Kronwall continued to prosper in the second period. First, he got an assist as Yegor Averin tied the scores, then he put Loko ahead with a power play goal midway through the session. However, a Sochi power play at the start of the third saw Kapustin get his second of the game to tie the scores. Both teams had chances to win in regulation: Jakub Nakladal’s deflected shot bounced off the post to safety and the puck broke for Stanislav Bocharov to race through on Konovalov’s net only to see the 20-year-old close the door on the opportunity. Thus the game went into overtime, where Ivanov’s decisive intervention awaited.

Sergei Zubov, head coach, Sochi

In the second period I thought the opposition got the better of us but for the rest of the game it was pretty even. We had chances, they had chances. In the third period we had a break when our guy was clean through but could not score. As for the overtime goal, our players, of course, need to see it through to the end.

Dmitry Kvartalnov, head coach, Lokomotiv

It was a tough game for us. We battled back from 0-2, we pulled out a big second period. Our young guys were nervous, you could see that very clearly, so we didn’t play the game we wanted. There wasn’t much rational thinking, we had too many emotions, too much confusion. In the end we got the break, but we need to shoot the puck more. Shoot, and things start to happen. I was disappointed with a lot of our penalties, we need to cut that out. I think this was also because the guys were nervous. For many of them, it was their first playoff game.

Shipachyov strike separates the teams

Jokerit Helsinki 2 Dynamo Moscow 4 (0-0, 1-1, 1-3)

(Dynamo leads the series 1-0)

Dynamo’s long winning streak over Jokerit continues with the Blue-and-Whites travelling to Finland to start its playoff campaign with victory. Teenage forward Ivan Muranov picked the perfect time to score his first ever goal in the KHL before the experienced Vadim Shipachyov produced the game-winner midway through the third period.

Photo: 25.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Playoffs. Jokerit (Helsinki) - Dynamo (Moscow)

The Muscovites came into the game on the back of an 11-game winning streak against the Finns in regular season action, with four of those victories coming this season. However, this success owed much to clinical finishing and strong goaltending: Jokerit outshot its opponent 34-21 but struggled to get past the experienced Alexander Yeryomenko in the visitor’s net.

Neither team created many chances in the early stages but Dynamo got in front midway through the game on a power play goal from Daniil Tarasov. He got the vital touch to Miika Koivisto’s point shot and deceived Janins Kalnins in the home net. That lead was short-lived, though. Just four minutes later John Norman tied the game when the pucked dropped perfectly for him to shoot home after a passage of pinball around Yeryomenko’s net.

Now the game was becoming more expansive, but few would have tipped Muranov as the next goalscorer. The 19-year-old arrived at the back door to sweep home the puck after Vladislav Yefremov circumnavigated the net. Dynamo’s youthful fourth line produced an unexpected punch for Jokerit. Four minutes later, a more familiar name found its way onto the scoresheet. Vadim Shipachyov produced an immaculate turn and finish from between the hash marks after Ilya Nikulin’s long pass sent Dmitry Kagarlitsky into the Jokerit zone.

Kristian Vesalainen quickly reduced the deficit, scoring from close range after a scramble in front of Yeryomenko’s net, but there was no fightback. Dynamo secured the verdict with an empty-net goal from Evgeny Mozer and makes it 12 straight wins against Jokerit.

Vladimir Krikunov, head coach, Dynamo Moscow

It was a typical first game, lots of tension, lots of mistakes. In the first period we gave away the puck in our zone but our goalie played well to save us from that error. The second period was even and in the third fortune was on our side.

Lauri Marjamaki, head coach, Jokerit

From our point of view it wasn’t a bad game. We controlled the game for two periods, but Dynamo was clinical and took its chances well. It’s the start of the series, there are things for us to work on. There were good things in today’s game and we’ll build on that before the next one.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Jokerit (Helsinki) Jokerit (Helsinki)
Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
Salavat Yulaev (Ufa) Salavat Yulaev (Ufa)
HC Sochi (Sochi) HC Sochi (Sochi)
HC Dynamo (Moscow) HC Dynamo (Moscow)
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