Salavat Yulaev leads the series 2-1
Salavat Yulaev battled back from 0-2 in this game to run out convincing winners on the night and turn around an early deficit in the series to edge in front. Nikolai Tsulygin’s team, looking for revenge after its Conference Final defeat to Avangard last year, moves ahead for the first time in this quarter-final match-up thanks to two goals from Teemu Hartikainen and three helpers from Linus Omark.
The closing stages of the previous game in this series had a profound impact on the destiny of this clash. Salavat Yulaev was six seconds away from losing in Balashikha and going 0-2 down but grabbed a late equalizer and went on to win in overtime, bringing the action to Ufa with the scores tied at 1-1.
Avangard came into Wednesday’s encounter looking to show that the abrupt change of fortune 48 hours earlier was not about to define the on-going series for Bob Hartley’s team. And the early stages suggested that the visitor was set fair to regain its lead. The game was barely a minute old when the Hawks took the lead after Kirill Semyonov went behind the net and produced a fantastic no-look feed to set up Sergei Shumakov for the opener. Late in the first period, it was 2-0 when Avangard got control of the puck in center ice and Sergei Shirokov set up Alexei Emelin to double the lead. It could – arguably should – have been worse for the home team. Shumakov failed to get a clean contact on the puck as bounced in front of a wide open net at the start of the second period; had that made it 3-0, the game might have been out of reach.
However, there has been nothing predictable about Ufa’s play this season. The team has varied between dazzling and disastrous hockey – sometimes in the same game – and from a low point at the first intermission the host battled back in fine style. The first goal came from Alexander Burmistrov, a forward who endured more than a little criticism. It hadn’t escaped anyone’s attention that Burmistrov’s line had been on the ice for the last five equal-strength goals that Ufa had allowed. Now, though, it made amends. Mikhail Pashnin won the puck in the center ice, Dmitry Kugryshev set up Burmistrov and the home team was on the scoreboard in the 25th minute. And, as the halfway mark approached, Salavat Yulaev tied the scores. An Avangard attack broke down, Vladimir Zharkov launched a counter down the left channel and Pyotr Khokhryakov beat Igor Bobkov.
At the start of the third, Sakari Manninen gave Ufa the lead for the first time in the game, firing home from center point off a Philip Larsen pass. Then came Hartikainen, grabbing two goals in two minutes to chase Bobkov from the net and give Salavat Yulaev a solid three-goal lead. True, Avangard hit back thanks to Brandon McMillan’s well-worked power play goal, but Zharkov finished the job with an empty net goal to spark the celebrations in Bashkortostan.
Barys leads the series 2-1
In 60 minutes of regulation time, Barys could not find a way to get in front in a hard-fought battle in Magnitogorsk. But it took just 30 seconds of overtime for the visitor to get winning goal and undo all of the hard work from home goalie Vasily Koshechkin.
The veteran netminder was caught unawares as his team made a sluggish start to the extras. Sergei Mozyakin, more often lauded for his overtime winners, was caught in possession on the right boards by Linus Videll. The puck went into the corner for Corban Knight and his return pass looked for the Swede in the left-hand circle. Viktor Antipin failed to get the puck away from danger and Videll’s instinctive shot surprised Koshechkin and slipped inside the near post. For home head coach Ilya Vorobyov, it was a tough blow to take: whatever game plan he prepared for the extras was left in tatters on the back of individual errors from key players; Metallurg’s hopes of moving ahead in the series were dashed as Barys continued its impressive form on the road.
Attempts to point the finger at Koshechkin, though, would be harsh. The goalie may well wish to have Videll’s goal back, but he can also point to a second period in which he stood in the way of a rampant Barys offense. That frame saw him stop 17 shots; at the other end, Eddie Pasquale had just four to deal with.
At that stage, the game was still goalless – and Pasquale’s hard labor was just beginning. Early in the third, Metallurg took the lead. Mozyakin was the scorer, but much of the credit went to Brandon Kozun. The American showed composure and vision, feinting to shoot before picking out his captain all alone in the left-hand circle. A trademark one-timer was too good for the visiting goalie and the deadlock was broken in the 47th minute. Earlier in the game, Mozyakin had a similar chance, but his first-period effort off an Andrei Loktionov feed was too close to Pasquale.
The Metallurg goal might have been prevented if Darren Dietz had managed to extend his stick far enough to intercept Kozun’s pass. The defenseman, however, made full amends a couple of minutes later when he joined the offense, exchanged passes with Videll and buried the return to punish a somewhat unnecessary Evgeny Timkin penalty. The remainder of the frame saw Metallurg pushing hard to regain the lead – it would spend almost three times as long on the attack in the third period – while Pasquale stood firm and Barys sent out more than a few remainders of its counterattacking prowess.
But the crowd had barely settled down for overtime when the evening came to an abrupt halt thanks to Videll’s decisive goal.