(Series tied at 2-2)
Metallurg came into this game with a lead in the series, but problems in the locker room. Key defenseman Yegor Yakovlev remains unavailable, and he was joined in the injured list by captain Sergei Mozyakin and Andrei Chibisov, the leading goalscorer in the regular season. That brought a return to the team for youngsters Yegor Korobkin and Igor Shvyryov.
Barys had fewer concerns, with Curtis Valk returning from injury and helping Yury Mikhailis move closer to a full-strength line-up. With Valk back, Barys tweaked the second and third lines. Both teams continued with their Finnish goalies as Joni Ortio and Juho Olkinuora look to have made the starting positions their own.
Each game of this series has seen Magnitka start at a blistering tempo, and today was no exception. Barys withstood the onslaught while playing at equal strength, but once Pavel Akolzin took a penalty, Nikolai Prokhorkin converted the power play. However, the home PP also had plenty to recommend it and right at the end of the opening frame, Matt Frattin’s backhand finish tied the game one second before the hooter.
A goal so late in the period affected the mood in both locker rooms. After the intermission, the balance of the game shifted. Barys, inspired, began with an impressive passage of play that produced everything except a second goal; Olkinuora’s blinding save from Akolzin kept the scores level. Shortly after that, Metallurg regained the lead thanks to Nikolai Goldobin. His prolific form in this series — today brought his fourth goal in four games — shouldn’t be a surprise. During the regular season, half of his points came in games against Barys and he continues to enjoy hunting snow leopards in the playoffs. On this occasion, Ortio had no chance, but a couple of minutes later his opposite number had every cause for frustration when he was beaten by a seemingly straightforward effort from Jesse Blacker.
Metallurg then got a great chance to regain the lead once more when Valk and Darren Dietz took penalties just 11 seconds apart. Barys, though, held on with three skaters and, when Valk emerged from the box, he jumped straight into a breakaway and only the piping saved Olkinuora.
With the scores tied at 40 minutes, the third period once again had a feeling of sudden death about it. Metallurg had its chances — Ortio denied Goldobin a second of the game, Shvyryov had a presentable opportunity — and the visitor looked the more likely scorer. At least, until it ran into penalty trouble and Barys converted its 5-on-3 chance thanks to Roman Starchenko. In the closing stages, the penalty box filled up: at one stage, there were three players from each side sitting out their various offenses. But that did not change the outcome and Kirill Panyukov’s empty net goal ensured that Barys would head back to Magnitogorsk with the series tied at 2-2.
(Avangard leads the series 3-1)
If Avangard goes on to win this series, a spell of 55 seconds late in the third period of game four could well be the defining moment. Down 1-3, the visitor scored two goals in quick succession to take the game into overtime. For Avtomobilist, so close to making it 2-2 in the series, it was a huge blow, and Ilya Kovalchuk’s winner in the second period of overtime compounded Bill Peters’ frustration. What could have been an even series when it returns to Balashikha on Wednesday is now a match-up that has Avangard just one game away from progressing.
Avtomobilist went into the game without Anatoly Golyshev, one of the team’s key forwards. He suffered an injury during Saturday’s game, which took some of the shine of his team’s first win of the playoffs. Lifted by Saturday’s success, though, the Motormen made a bright start to the game and translated that into the opening goal after six minutes. Georgy Belousov, who scored the late winner in game three, was the architect this time, surging clear down the right-hand channel, drawing Igor Bobkov out of position then going around the net and setting up Nikita Tryamkin with a wide-open net. And a competitive second period got even better for the home team when Brooks Macek converted a power play late in the frame to double the home lead.
The visitor, anxious not to see a 2-0 lead in the series completely wiped out in Yekaterinburg, hit back midway through the second period when Kovalchuk deflected Alexei Bereglazov’s shot into the net. However, Avto’s star man, Pavel Datsyuk, made his own contribution to this battle of the much-titled veterans with a magical assist to set up Macek’s second of the game and restore that two-goal advantage.
Everything changed late in the third period. Avtomobilist looked to be closing out a 3-1 victory when Dmitry Zhukenov took a tripping minor. It took Avangard just 13 seconds to pull a goal back, with Reid Boucher blasting home Sergei Tolchinsky’s feed to the right-hand dot. Then came another penalty for the home team, this time on Chay Genoway, and the Hawks’ PP delivered once again. Tolchinsky, very much the Avangard dangerman in this series, was involved again: he picked out Corban Knight on the doorstep who, in turn, set up Jiri Sekac for a close range finish. Tolchinsky moved to 6 (2+4) for the series and the game went to overtime.
The extras saw Avangard create the more dangerous chances, particularly as the first period of overtime progressed. Andrei Stas rattled the frame of the goal, Kirill Semyonov somehow missed an open goal and in the final seconds of the frame Tolchinsky came close to winning it. As the game went on, the visitor’s greater physical fitness became ever more apparent and the final stages turned into something of a siege of Jakub Kovar’s net. And all this, despite losing Denis Zernov and Klim Kostin to injury as the action progressed.
Finally, matters came to a head. With shots raining in on Kovar — who made 55 saves in the game — the home team yielded in the 89th minute when Tolchinsky got the puck to the slot and Kovalchuk steered it beyond the goalie to take his team to the brink of qualifying for the next round.