Salavat Yulaev completed a 4-2 series victory over Metallurg thanks to a game-winning performance from its Finnish contingent. Teemu Hartikainen scored twice, including a tying goal with 46 seconds left to play, Joonas Kemppainen potted the overtime winner. Juha Metsola made 46 saves and notably denied Sergei Mozyakin a goal in the series. Mozyakin had never before failed to score in a KHL playoff campaign.
(Salavat Yulaev wins the series 4-2)
Salavat Yulaev upset the seedings to despatch Magnitka from the playoffs in the first round. Thursday’s overtime victory means Metallurg failed to advance through the playoffs for the first time since 2013 when, coincidentally, it also fell to Ufa. However, the home team was seconds away from seeing this series tied up and taken back to Magnitogorsk for a game seven showdown on Saturday. Only a last-minute goal from Teemu Hartikainen denied Metallurg the win in regulation and paved the way for Salavat to progress.
Earlier, Hartikainen opened the scoring in the 15th minute. Linus Omark played a pass along the goal line and the visiting defense parted to leave Hartikainen all alone on the slot with only Vasily Koshechkin to beat. In the previous five games in the series, the team scoring first had gone on to win and Metallurg set out to reverse that trend and prolong its season by at least one more game. The remainder of the first period was dominated by the visitor and the second brought two unanswered goals.
The first came in the 37th minute as Michal Bulir converted a power play chance. Mozyakin was the architect, his instinctive first-time pass from the corner slicing open the home defense and presenting the Czech center with an inviting chance. The Ufa bench appealed for offside, but the challenge was dismissed and the home team faced a bench minor for delaying the game. That did not accrue but Metallurg still forged ahead in the final seconds of the stanza. A swift counter-attack sent Nick Shore clean through on Metsola’s net and the American forward gleefully collected his second point of the game to reinforce his position as his team’s leading scorer in post season with 5 (2+3) points.
It was almost enough to win it and prolong the series. Metallurg continued to enjoy the better of the play in the third period, although Alexander Kadeikin might have tied the scores when he went on a solo rush. Only the final surge saved Salavat Yulaev. Omark shot low from the right-hand circle, Hartikainen got his stick down for the redirect and Koshechkin was unable to react in time as the puck came at him through traffic. Overtime, for the fourth time in six games.
In the extras, Hartikainen turned provider as his compatriot Kemppainen settled the series. The center had plenty of work to do after collecting Hartikainen’s pass off the boards but delivered an emphatic finish from close range to spark great celebrations from the home players and fans.
Josef Jandac, head coach, Metallurg
I’d like to congratulate Nikolai Tsulygin and his team on their success. I wish Salavat all the best going forward. Today our team played well, we played for the win. There were chances but we didn’t take them. Goals were hard to come by all through the series and this is the fourth time we went to overtime. Ufa scored and, unfortunately, that’s the end of our season.
Were you happy with the performance of your top players?
Vasya Koshechkin did very well, Sergei Mozyakin worked incredibly hard, it wasn’t easy for him out there. But our guys didn’t play like Ufa’s first line. Kemppainen’s troika was rested at the end of the season, they were fresher, better prepared for this series.
Was there an epidemic in the club?
Dronov got ill, Mozyakin was ill at the start of the series and we lost Chibisov but no, there was no epidemic.
Did you consider resting some of your players at the end of the regular season?
We thought about it, but we wanted to finish as high up the table as possible.
Nikolai Tsulygin, head coach, Salavat Yulaev
For three periods today, Metallurg was the better team. But it says a lot about the character of a team that can win even when it isn’t playing its best hockey. In overtime there was less pressure, we skated better. Overall the series was very even. Four of the six games went to overtime and nobody knew how that would end. Magnitogorsk played well but today we showed we were stronger and more fortunate.
Were you concerned when you allowed that second goal right at the end of the second period?
That’s hockey. We didn’t play to the end, we eased up and made poor choices on the ice. That’s what caused the goal.