(Series tied at 1-1)
Two goals from Teemu Hartikainen earned Salavat Yulaev an overtime verdict here, tying this first round series before the action moves to Chelyabinsk on Sunday.
In the opening game between the teams, Traktor successfully silenced the free-scoring Finns of Ufa. Between them, Hartikainen and partners Markus Granlund and Sakari Manninen formed the most prolific line in regular season but they could not generate anything in Wednesday’s 1-3 loss. Today, albeit belatedly, they began to put that right.
After the first meeting, Salavat Yulaev looked to be short of aggression and creativity. The team skated poorly at times and fell well short of the standards expected of it. There were also question marks over goalie Juho Metsola. However, Tommi Lamsa was not interested in root-and-branch changes to his team and trusted the players to learn from the disappointment of the previous game.
The early signs were not promising, though. Traktor, full of confidence, had no interest in playing a supporting role in this game and Metsola was the busier of the goalies in the first period. Frustration affected Ufa’s discipline and two power plays in a row helped the visitor open the scoring when Vitaly Kravtsov redirected Tomas Hyka’s shot into the net. That’s Kravtsov’s second goal in two post season games.
After the intermission, Salavat Yulaev visibly improved. Ivan Fedotov found himself with plenty of work to do as the home team looked to get back into the game. However, for a time it seemed that the tying goal was not coming. A 5-on-3 power play did not accrue, then Alexander Kadeikin scored only for the video review to spot a foot steering the puck into the net. But then came Hartikainen.
The Finn tied the game with the next shot, opening his account for the playoffs and adding to Traktor’s problems. The visitor was struggling to match Salavat Yulaev’s workrate and, after fulfilling the game plan to the letter in the first meeting, found itself in trouble here. Those problems deepened when Danil Bashkirov created a second goal of the game, scored by Vladislav Kartayev for the second time in this series.
If the first intermission helped Ufa get its game together, the second played a similar role for Traktor. The visitor emerged for the third period in a better frame of mind and played hockey with controlled aggression to take the initiative. However, Salavat was prepared for this, and worked hard to frustrate the visiting forwards. Kartayev, whose grandfather Anatoly was a Traktor star of the past, was particularly eye-catching as he tied up Chelyabinsk in its own zone. However, Traktor was able to bide its time until the right moment came along and, when it did, Nick Bailen demonstrated his importance to the team when he joined the attack in time to slot home the tying goal three minutes before the hooter.
In the extras, Traktor had the better of the play, helped by a penalty on Kadeikin 10 minutes into overtime. However, once the home team returned to full strength, Hartikainen delivered the winning goal. Granlund fired the puck to the back door and his strike partner was perfectly placed to shoot home and level the series.
(Ak Bars leads the series 2-0)
These two teams went to overtime on Wednesday, with Ak Bars edging it thanks to Trevor Murphy’s goal. But game two of the series was far more straightforward for the Eastern Conference top seed. A powerful first period left Torpedo in trouble, and Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team had few problems closing out the win and building a 2-0 lead to take to Nizhny Novgorod for game three on Sunday.
After a late finish in game one, Ak Bars started early in game two. Viktor Tikhonov opened the scoring in the fifth minute and, just a couple of minutes later, he set up Stephane Da Costa for the second, scored with the help of a deflection off a bamboozled Georgy Misharin.
Late in the opening stanza, Patrice Cormier added a third goal. The Canadian shrugged off the attentions of two defenseman to get to a Harri Pesonen feed on the slot and force the puck beyond Andrei Tikhomirov.
That was the last significant action of the game for the visiting goalie. Tikhomirov stayed on the ice until the intermission but was replaced by Pyotr Kochetkov for the second period. He had a busy time of it, facing 17 shots in total, but was beaten only once when Pesonen again provided the feed. This time, Daniil Zhuravlyov supplied a neat finish, flipping the puck up and over the keeper’s shoulder from close range.
There was no way back for Torpedo in the third. Ak Bars was aware that the hard work was done for this game and could calmly play out the final frame. The visitor at least managed a morale-boosting consolation goal late in the game from Ivan Chekhovich, but apart from robbing Timur Bilyalov of a shut-out in his first playoff appearance of the year, it made little difference to final outcome. Torpedo returns home in urgent need of victories in the next two encounters to keep this contest alive.