Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Finnish goalie Harri Sateri extended his shut-out streak to 143 minutes before Avtomobilist scored its first goal of this year’s playoffs. But the visitor was unable to turn the tide in its series against Sibir: a hat-trick for Juuso Puustinen and an overtime winner from Nikita Shashkov leaves the Motormen 0-3 down. There was also overtime in Nizhnekamsk where Neftekhimik old-boy Emil Galimov gave Ak Bars the win.

Puustinen scores three, Shashkov gets the winner

Sibir Novosibirsk 4 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 OT (2-1, 0-1, 1-1, 1-0)

Sibir leads the series 3-0

Avtomobilist got on the scoreboard at last – but Sibir claimed its second overtime win of this series to open a 3-0 lead and set up a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference semi-final on Saturday. A hat-trick from Juuso Puustinen led the way for the host in regulation before Nikita Shashkov stuffed home the winner in the 10th minute of overtime.

Photo: 06.03.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Playoffs. Sibir (Novosibirsk Region) - Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg)

It was almost four years since the playoffs last came to Novosibirsk: on March 14, 2016, Sergei Mozyakin got the winning goal for Metallurg in game four of its series with Sibir. Magnitka took care of business on home ice in the next game and went on to lift the Gagarin Cup; Sibir, for so long hailed as a model of a club punching above its modest financial weight, suffered an extended exile from post season play.

Until today. It’s been an impressive return so far. Two shut-out wins in Yekaterinburg put the Siberians in control of the series, with goalie Harri Sateri closing on a club record shut-out streak in the playoffs. When the Finn was beaten by Maxim Berezin, midway through the first period, he had gone more than 143 minutes without allowing a goal, surpassing Alexander Salak’s mark.

However, there were visible nerves for both teams in the opening exchanges. Avto, of course, had more to fear: defeat here would leave the Motormen staring down the barrel of an almost insurmountable 0-3 deficit. But for Sibir, too, this was a new pressure to handle in front of a packed house.

Puustinen’s opening goal, another demonstration of his classy wrist shot, might have eased some of that angst in the eighth minute. But almost immediately a penalty on Andrei Yermakov put Sibir back under pressure and Berezin’s goal tied the scores. A second goal for Puustinen, coming on a delayed penalty, survived a coach’s challenge from Andrei Martemyanov to give the home team a 2-1 lead at the intermission.

The failure of Avtomobilist’s first line to generate scoring in this series was one of the big talking points for the Ural team. That lack of goals was costly in the first two games and was not remedied until midway through the second period here. Nigel Dawes orbited the Sibir zone before threading the needle to set up Peter Holland. Sateri pulled off a minor miracle to catch Holland’s shot somewhere behind his back, but his effort was in vein: the video review confirmed that the goalie’s glove was already over the line when he got a hand to the biscuit.

In the third period, Puustinen completed his treble – the first Sibir player to do so in a playoff since Jonas Enlund six years previously. The former Neftekhimik man once again popped up in the right place at the right time to finish off a fantastic solo rush by Alexander Sharov. That might have been the game-winner, but Avtomobilist led the KHL in shorthanded goals during the regular season and showed why late in the game when Nikita Tryamkin’s chipped clearance sent Geoff Platt through on Sateri to tie it up for the third time.

And so, a second successive overtime for these teams. And a winner not for Puustinen, but for Sibir’s homegrown prospect Shashkov. The 20-year-old, a World Junior bronze medallist last season, got to the doorstep and outmuscled Alexei Vasilevsky in order to stuff home the rebound from a Sharov shot and spark jubilant scenes in Novosibirsk.

Galimov’s triumphant return

Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk 1 Ak Bars Kazan 2 OT (0-0, 0-0, 1-1, 0-1)

Ak Bars leads the series 3-0

Emil Galimov returned to his home-town team and handed it a painful defeat with two goals to give Ak Bars an overtime victory. The 27-year-old was born in Nizhnekamsk and started his hockey career in the Neftekhimik school before moving to Lokomotiv as the club rebuilt after the 2011 air disaster. Later, he played two more seasons at home, captaining Neftekhimik last year, before crossing Tatarstan to play for Ak Bars.

Photo: 06.03.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Playoffs. Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk) - Ak Bars (Kazan)

This, though, was his first KHL playoff game in Nizhnekamsk – in his previous seasons with the club, Neftekhimik did not make post season. And, against his alma mater, Galimov rose to the occasion with a game-winning performance. He opened the scoring in the 44th minute of a typically hard-fought local derby, sweeping home a backhand shot after Konstantin Barulin padded away an effort from Albert Yarullin.

Then, after a late goal sent the action into overtime, he produced the winner with a point shot through traffic that left Barulin unsighted. It put Ak Bars 3-0 up in the series and on the point of progressing to the next round; it left a brave Neftekhimik unrewarded for a strong showing on home ice after two heavy losses in Kazan at the start of the series.

Although this game was far tighter than the previous two, Ak Bars – and Galimov in particular – might feel that it could have been settled more quickly. The forward came close to breaking the deadlock midway through an evenly-matched first period but saw his shot come back off the post. In the second frame, two, Ak Bars believed it had the lead. Andrei Pedan fired the puck into the net but, after a long video review, the officials decreed that the goal was off its moorings and Pedan’s effort could not be counted. Barulin took a minor penalty for moving the goalposts but Neftekhimik withstood that one and the game was still goalless at the start of the third.

Galimov finally got the opening goal of the game and, for a long time, that looked like it might be enough to win it. Ildar Shiksatdarov had other ideas, however. With barely three minutes to play he took a pass from Pavel Kulikov and drilled it into the net from the right-hand dot. Neftekhimik was back in the game, but unable to change its fate as Galimov had the final say in the extras. The teams meet here again on Sunday with Ak Bars needing just one more victory to seal its passage to the Conference semi-final.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Related clubs

Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg) Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg)
Ak Bars (Kazan) Ak Bars (Kazan)
Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk) Neftekhimik (Nizhnekamsk)
Sibir (Novosibirsk Region) Sibir (Novosibirsk Region)
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