Gagarin Cup holder Ak Bars went down 6-3 at Avangard and has allowed 12 goals in two games as its title defense gets off to a shaky start. The other Eastern Conference pairing in action today is evenly-poised: Salavat Yulaev recovered from Monday’s overtime loss to win 4-1 at Metallurg. In the West, both series stand at 2-0. Lokomotiv blanked Sochi to build on Monday’s overtime verdict, while Dynamo keeps on finding ways to beat Jokerit: this time Alexander Yeryomenko played a blinder to backstop a 3-2 success in Helsinki.
(Series tied at 1-1)
Salavat Yulaev powered to an impressive victory to square this series in a game that was very different from Monday’s opener. The cagey, low-scoring hockey we saw in that 100-minute battle was blown away in the first nine minutes as the visitor jumped into a 2-0 lead. The second period saw Ufa’s foreign legion to the fore once more, with goals from Teemu Hartikainen and Joonas Kemppainen stretching the lead to 4-0. Metallurg mustered a late consolation goal from Michal Bulir but must go to Ufa on Friday with the series level at 1-1.
The initial indications were not all that promising for Salavat Yulaev. The news that Danish defenseman Philip Larsen could not play came as a big blow to Nikolai Tsulygin’s team. Larsen is a big presence at both ends of the ice and makes a significant impact on the Ufa power play.
In the Dane’s absence, Magnitka made the brighter start. The home team enjoyed a clear territorial advantage and carved out a couple of half chances in the opening few minutes, only to be rocked by a goal for Salavat Yulaev. Hartikainen’s shot was almost deflected into the net by home defenseman Maksim Matushkin’s skate; the rebound dropped for Linus Omark to calmly slot the opening goal into the net. Five minutes later, it was 2-0. A swift attack saw the Metallurg defense sliced open: Dmitry Kugryshev and Pyotr Khokhryakov played two passes to set up Maxim Mayorov for a second goal.
It wasn’t all going Salavat’s way. On 14 minutes, the visitor lost Anton Burdasov when the forward hobbled off the ice after a clash with Yakov Rylov. The Metallurg man also headed to the locker room, ejected from the game for kneeing. However, Burdasov’s absence did not stop the visitor adding to its goal tally in the second period. Hartikainen fired one under Vasily Koshechkin’s glove midway through the frame to make it 3-0 and bring the goalie’s evening to an end. Artyom Zagidulin came off the bench for his first taste of playoff hockey and the 23-year-old soon found himself beaten by Kemppainen on the power play after a textbook build-up.
The third period was largely a formality, despite Bulir pulling one goal back for Metallurg. Juha Metsola was solid in the Ufa net and he and his team head back home with the series tied.
Nikolai Tsulygin, head coach, Salavat Yulaev
It was a good, competitive game. I’m happy that we managed to get the win. We’ve tied the series and we can get ready for our home games. Right now I can’t say much about Burdasov’s injury. We’re waiting for the results of a scan and that will make things clearer. Larsen missed out through injury and at the moment I can’t say when he’ll be back in action.
Josef Jandac, head coach, Metallurg Magnitogorsk
Nothing came off for us today. Sometimes, you get a game like that. We were down 0-2, then we took a load of penalties. Salavat Yulaev defended strongly. We just want to put this one behind us and get ready for the next. We thought about resting some of our players when the score was 0-4 and the game was lost. But the guys themselves wanted to be part of the team, wanted to try to get us back into the game. And I decided that we were in trouble and we needed to work together to get out of it. Playing with three lines would only have drained the energy from the team. Games like this are tough for everyone but our guys kept working until the end.
(Avangard leads the series 2-0)
Ak Bars was hit for six once again as Avangard opened a 2-0 lead in the series and left the defending champion with it all to do when the action moves to Kazan on Friday. Two goals for Sergei Shirokov led the way for the home team, with Avangard only briefly troubled in a spell midway through the second period when Ak Bars hauled itself into a one-goal game.
Avangard took a grip on the game midway through the first period. Semyon Koshelev opened the scoring on nine minutes, then Ilya Mikheyev added a power play goal two minutes later. Ak Bars got plenty of time in the home end and often had the opposition defense at full stretch, but struggled to get meaningful shots at Igor Bobkov’s net. When Shirokov got his first of the evening to make it 3-0, things were assuming a familiar pattern.
At this stage, Ak Bars had allowed nine unanswered goals in this series and the champion’s title defense was in danger of unravelling completely. However, a road to recovery was about to open. Two penalties in quick succession saw Avangard down to three skaters and the visitor took full advantage. First, Paul Postma smashed home a one-timer from the left-hand face-off spot after Danis Zaripov marked his return to the team by serving up a dish. Then it was the turn of Jiri Sekac, wrapping up a bit of tic-tac-toe involving Justin Azevedo and Anton Lander. Suddenly it was 2-3 and Ak Bars was right back in the game.
With the pressure building, the last thing Ak Bars needed was a penalty. But when Andrei Pedan was called for boarding, Avangard needed just 20 seconds to punish the visitor. Sergei Shirokov and Cody Franson probed the defense before setting up Taylor Beck with a shooting chance from the top of the circle. The Canadian found his range and lazered one into the top corner to record his first KHL playoff goal and give his team some much-needed breathing space.
Midway through the third period Beck was involved again, collecting his third assist of the game to help Viktor Stalberg make it 5-2 and leave Ak Bars with to much to do. A power play combination saw Postma get his second of the game, again assisted by Azevedo and Zaripov, but the home team had the final say when Shirokov put his second into an empty net. Avangard has scored twice in every period of the series so far; Ak Bars has just three goals in total.
Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, head coach, Ak Bars
It was a good game. The guys battled hard and did a lot of good things. We made some changes in our play. Our power play worked well today but there are still things we need to work on. We understand where the problems are and what we need to do about them. Allowing 12 goals in two games is a lot, too much. You don’t often see so many goals in playoff games. But it is what it is.
Bob Hartley, head coach, Avangard
We were in complete control of the game when suddenly they got two goals on the power play. Then came the key moment of the game for us, when Bobkov made a huge save. From the bench, that looked 100% a goal. Next, Taylor Beck got a power play goal for us and we had that two-goal lead back. Kirill Petrov is skating with the team, he’s back in full training and I expect him to be available for the third game in the series. Tomorrow we’ll meet with the training staff to assess the situation and look at the roster. Maybe we’ll need to bring in some fresh blood. [Quotes taken from championat.com]
(Lokomotiv leads the series 2-0)
Lokomotiv showed its class in game two of this series, building on Monday’s anxious overtime victory with a convincing shut-out success. For Sochi, which has won just one playoff game in franchise history, a difficult task looks almost impossible as Sergei Zubov’s men must recover from 0-2 down in this series.
It was another good day for Loko’s youngsters. Goalie Ilya Konovalov secured his first playoff shut-out, stopping 22 shots along the way. And Georgy Ivanov, whose overtime goal handed the Railwaymen the verdict in Monday’s opening game, popped up once again to open the scoring in the third minute.
Once again, Ivanov combined well with Staffan Kronwall. The veteran defenseman showed all his experience in picking the right moment to produce a backhand pass that presented the young forward with a wide open net to aim at. Ivanov made no mistake and Loko, having trailed 0-2 early in Monday’s game, ensured there would be no repeat this time around.
However, that goal did not deflate Sochi. On the contrary, the visitor picked up the pace and had slightly the better of the first period. A Ziyat Paigin shot against Konovalov’s post threatened to tie the scores; the Leopards continued to prowl around the home zone but could not find a way to tie the game.
Lokomotiv came out in the second and quickly proceeded to take control of the game. In the first minute after the restart a breakdown in center ice got the home team into position. Jakub Nakladal’s pass along the blue line found Rushan Rafikov and the 23-year-old defenseman smashed home a point shot to double the lead. Then came the goal of the game from Daniil Apalkov, racing coast-to-coast to make it 3-0 as a short-handed Sochi team was caught out changing on the fly. Apalkov’s lightning break provided Konovalov with an assist to go with his shut-out; the play began as the home goalie fielded the puck behind his own net.
Sochi had the puck in Konovalov’s net late in the second period, but Dmitry Lugin’s effort was ruled out after the home bench appealed for goalie interference. The video confirmed Dmitry Kvartalnov’s concerns and Lokomotiv remained in a comfortable position.
The third period produced no further scoring. Lokomotiv effectively shut the game down to secure the win, while Sochi’s prospects were dented when Eric O’Dell was sent to the locker room after a high hit on Ivanov. Without its top forward, the visitor looked toothless; the prospect of a suspension for the Canadian does little to boost his team’s chances when the action moves to the Black Sea on Friday.
Sergei Zubov, head coach, Sochi
I liked our first period, even though we allowed that early goal. We played the kind of hockey we wanted to play, but their goalie did well and that was the difference throughout the game. In the third, we got a bit aggressive. The series is heading to Sochi, we’ll get ready, make some adjustments. I haven’t seen a replay [of the O’Dell penalty incident] but it looked like a hit to the body. However, the ref decided it was a hit to the head.
Dmitry Kvartalnov, head coach, Lokomotiv
It was an even score. We scored quickly but there were times when Ilya Konovalov really helped us as the last line of defense, and our D was pretty solid. We need to concentrate more, we need to eliminate high sticks in the opposition end of the ice, and we need to pay attention when we’re changing on the fly so we don’t get caught with too many men. [Coach comments taken from championat.com]
(Dynamo leads the series 2-0)
Finnish defenseman Miika Koivisto potted the game-winner as Dynamo maintained its hot streak against Jokerit. The Muscovites have now won 13 successive games against the Helsinki team and will return to Russia with a 2-0 lead in the series. However, this result owed much to a fine performance from veteran goalie Alexander Yeryomenko, whose 46 saves frustrated the home offense.
Koivisto’s winner came on the power play midway through the game. Dynamo won the face-off, Patrik Zackrisson exchanged passes with the defenseman and the play ended when Koivisto smashed in a shot from the blue line to beat Ryan Zapolski just 19 seconds after Sakari Manninen was sent to the sin bin. For Zapolski, called to the team ahead of Monday’s starter, Janis Kalnins, that was the end of the evening; Kalnins returned and kept Dynamo at bay for the remainder of the game but Jokerit could not complete a fightback from 1-3.
The home team might rue its inability to make more of a fast start. Down in the series and possessing an unenviable record against its opponent, the Finns came out ready to dictate the game. From the first minute, visiting goalie Yeryomenko was kept busy. Pekka Jormakka fired a shot into the netminder’s helmet, Viktor Loov dinged one off the piping and, in the 10th minute, the pressure paid off. Sami Lepisto’s shot somehow ended up behind the goalie and Niklas Jensen reacted fastest to put it in the net.
After the goal, Jokerit kept up the pressure: Peter Regin twice tested the netminder, Antti Pihlstrom had a go but Dynamo was preparing a counter-punch. Two goals in two minutes late in the opening frame saw the visitor go to the intermission in front despite spending the bulk of the game absorbing Jokerit offense. Zackrisson got the tying goal before Miks Indrasis found the narrowest of shooting lanes to whip a wrister over Loov’s trailing leg and beyond the reach of Zapolski.
The second period followed a similar pattern to the first, with Jokerit making most of the play but Dynamo – through Koivisto – getting the only goal. And the final frame was also dominated by the battle between Yeryomenko and the home offense. Brian O’Neill scored early in the session, shooting home after a surging break from Loov, but the host could not find another marker to take the game into overtime. While Jokerit had 46 unsuccessful shots on goal, Dynamo scored three from 20 efforts on the home net.
Vladimir Krikunov, head coach, Dynamo
We knew it would be tough. We did everything we could to win the game. We didn’t manage a shot on goal until the latter half of the first period but then the game became more intense. We allowed an early goal but we fought back and got in front, then in the second period we took our chance on the power play. Our goalie, Yeryomenko, was great today.
Lauri Marjamaki, head coach, Jokerit
On Monday we played our best game of the season against Dynamo and today we were even better. It feels like there’s some kind of hex on us. We had a great team game, we did everything we could to win it and the opposition couldn’t even get to our net … Our power play didn’t come off, the puck spun away from the post. As coaches, we have to actively find a way to help the team out of this situation.