(Avangard leads the series 2-0)
Game one of this series went to overtime; game two was settled in a third-period flurry. After the hard-fought clash two days earlier, this game saw Avangard deploy far more offense. However, with Juha Metsola in fine form it took time for the home team to convert its advantage into goals.
The opening frame saw Avangard press from the off: the home team finished with a 16-3 lead on the shot count. Bob Hartley’s team was clearly under instructions to get shots away: the teams spent similar amounts of time on the attack but Salavat Yulaev’s more cautious approach to unleashing its shots contributed a big difference in the workloads of the two goalies. Metsola’s biggest save came from Kirill Semyonov early in the session; subsequently play continued with few interruptions but relatively few causes for alarm at either end of the ice.
The opening goal eventually came on the power play. Avangard maintained its edge in the second period and got its chance when Joonas Kemppainen was called for hooking. Taylor Beck and David Desharnais, two regular contributors during the playoffs, combined to present Sergei Shirokov with a shooting chance in front of the net and this time Metsola was unable to find an answer. After a postseason in which the Salavat Yulaev PK was close to invincible, there are signs that Avangard might be cracking the code.
However, the Ufa power play also has its qualities and that was amply demonstrated early in the third when Nikolai Tsulygin’s team enjoyed its first unadulterated numerical advantage. To nobody’s great surprise, it was two of that prolific Nordic line that combined to create Vladimir Tkachyov’s tying goal. Linus Omark passed to Teemu Hartikainen on the slot; the Finn slid the puck through his own legs to present Tkachyov with an unmissable opportunity. Omark’s assist takes him to 197 assists for Salavat Yulaev in the KHL, tying Alexander Radulov’s club record.
At this point, it would be a brave man who was ready to bet on the final outcome. But Avangard responded almost immediately with Beck – the scoring sensation of the Eastern playoffs – doing the damage. Desharnais burst into the Ufa zone and dropped the puck for his fellow Canadian to rifle home a one timer just three minutes after the Salavat Yulaev goal. Beck’s productive streak now extends to 10 games and, like Omark, he matched a club record in the KHL; that form replicates Jaromir Jagr’s streak.
Beck’s goal was something of a body blow to Salavat Yulaev. Once back in front, Avangard gained strength and took a firmer grip on the game. Shirokov was close to extending the lead almost immediately, Avangard added a third in the 56th minute. Kirill Petrov led the rush and retrieved the puck after his shot was saved; the feed gave Semyonov the chance to make it 3-1.
Desperate to find a way back into the game and avoid going 0-2 down in the series, Salavat Yulaev withdrew Metsola from the net. But, with 26 seconds left to play, Avangard wrapped up its win when Alexei Emelin fired into the unguarded goal with 24 seconds left to play. The action moves to Bashkiria on Tuesday with Salavat Yulaev in an unenviable position in the series.
Bob Hartley, head coach, Avangard
This was a total team effort. Everyone chipped in from the power play to 5-on-5, to Bobkov playing strong. It’s pretty tough to look at all the regular season games, all the playoff games, but I think we just played our most complete game. We were dominant, we were disciplined, we executed the game plan after we made a few adjustments, and the players deserve all the credit. This is a fun team to coach, we just need to keep going, we’re going to Ufa and we need to carry on in the same vein.
Nikolai Tsulygin, head coach, Salavat Yulaev
Today Avangard beat us in every area. Desire, skating, everything. We lost this game all over the ice and I’m not happy with anyone on the team today. We win as a team and we lose as a team, there’s never any need to talk about who played better than someone else.