(Metallurg leads the series 1-0)
The first playoff action of 2021 lived up to expectation, with Metallurg and Barys trading 11 goals in a roller-coaster game in Magnitogorsk. The home team, which finished third in the East in regular season, rallied from 1-3 to get the win in game one of this first-round match-up.
Metallurg made the perfect start, opening the scoring on its first attack of the game. Young Yegor Korobkin made the breakthrough, firing home the first playoff goal of his career after just 37 seconds. The Barys defense was hesitant in dealing with Nikolai Goldobin’s dump-and-chase, allowing Korobkin a shooting chance from the right-hand circle.
However, the visitor soon bared its teeth and the home team found that its evening unravelled fast. It started when Matt Frattin unceremoniously barged Sergei Mozyakin off the puck in center ice and Valery Orekhov sent Kirill Panyukov through to tie the scores in the sixth minute. Vasily Koshechkin will surely want that one back after the shot seemed to go through the Metallurg goalie. The Magnitka hit penalty trouble and Koshechkin was lured a long way out of his crease during a 3-on-5 PK. Panyukov moved the puck back to Roman Starchenko, who fired into an open net to put Barys ahead. The power play continued, and Metallurg’s problems deepened: Panyukov continued his lively start to the playoffs with another assist as Darren Dietz made it 3-1, chasing Koshechkin from his net.
The next contribution from Dietz proved rather less helpful, though. Late in the first period he took a penalty and early in the second, Yegor Yakovlev converted the power play to put Metallurg back in the game. And that power play changed the momentum of the game. The Steelmen continued to dominate and tied the game in the 27th minute when Mozyakin was perfectly placed to convert the rebound after Artyom Minulin’s shot was saved. And barely a minute later the home team had the lead after Goldobin and Semyon Koshelev passed their way around the Barys defense. Goldobin finished it off by taking the puck around the back of the net and scoring on the wraparound to make it 4-3.
Both teams got better acquainted with the penalty box in the next few minutes but after the dust settled, Metallurg had a 5-on-4 advantage and Goldobin made the most of it to grab his second of the game. That made it 4-0 to the home team in the second period, but the action was far more even than the scoring suggested. Barys got a reward for its efforts late in the session when Dietz released Phil Varone and the Canadian forward exploded into the space between Minulin and Pashnin to make it a one-goal game.
That set up an intriguing third period, but after the goal rush of the first 40 minutes, the scoring cooled down sharply. Barys pushed for an equalizer, and came close when Dietz sent Frattin into the Metallurg zone, only for Juho Olkinuora to glove the puck. But Magnikta made it safe with a quick-fire double. First, Yakovlev intercepted a wayward clearance from Frattin and potted his second of the night, then a slick move saw Sergei Plotnikov and Mikhail Pashnin unpick the Barys defense for Nikolai Prokhorkin to make it 7-4. Barys had a goal whistled off late on when Shevchenko forced the puck home, but only after the net came off its moorings, and Metallurg closed out a high-scoring win to start the series.
(Avangard leads the series 1-0)
A pair of power play goals at the start of the third period steered this game away from Avtomobilist. The visitor showed signs of threatening Avangard in the first 40 minutes, but after falling 0-3 behind there was no way back for the Motormen.
This game promised to be an intriguing match-up. It’s not often that two Canadian coaches go head-to-head in the Gagarin Cup playoffs, but Avtomobilist’s Bill Peters was here to make his KHL post season debut against Bob Hartley. Hartley’s first bid for the big prize, of course, saw his Hawks fly all the way to the 2019 final but last year’s unfinished campaign saw Avangard fall at the first hurdle, losing to Salavat Yulaev in six. The Motormen, meanwhile, only once made it past this stage after topping the Eastern Conference in 2019.
Avangard settled into its game faster, helped by an early penalty on Brooks Macek that handed the initiative to the home team in the opening minutes. Avtomobilist survived that scare, but fell behind in the seventh minute after the teams were back at full strength. Sergei Tolchinsky, who wrapped up his regular season with two goals in Saturday’s 5-2 win over Barys, got the goal — and it was a well-taken one. Alexei Emelin fired in the puck from the point and, although Tolchinsky could not angle in a shot with his forehand, he was able to surprise Jakub Kovar with his backhand and beat the Czech.
Avto’s best chances came late in the first period, with Igor Bobkov making a smart double save to deny Anatoly Golyshev. Early in the second, the home goalie had to be alert once again to bail out his colleagues after a defensive error threatened the Avangard net. At the other end, Ilya Kovalchuk had a couple of chances to extend the home lead but for much of the middle frame Avtomobilist enjoyed the bulk of the play and the Hawks’ defense was at full stretch to protect Bobkov’s net.
But the visitor ran into penalty trouble and that took the game away from the Motormen at the start of the third. Peter Holland sat for slashing late in the second and when the teams returned from the intermission he could only look on as Tolchinsky set up Oliwer Kaski to make it 2-0. Moments later, Avtomobilist was called for too many men and that brought too many problems as Kirill Semyonov added a third.
By now, Avangard was in complete control — Avtomobilist managed just three shots in the final frame and Kovar pulled off a couple of big stops to keep the scoreline to three. At the other end, Bobkov completed his shut-out, making 22 saves to frustrate the visitor and give the Hawks the early edge in the series.