(Metallurg leads the series 3-2)
Sergei Mozyakin marked his 150th playoff appearance with the opening goal as Magnitka powered to victory in game five. This comprehensive win puts the Steelmen back in front in this series, with Ilya Vorobyov’s team requiring just one more success to take its place in the second round.
Mozyakin missed the previous game in this series but was available once again on Wednesday and quickly made his presence felt. The home captain potted his second goal of this year’s playoff to open the scoring in the second minute when he fired home after a series of deflections contrived to put the puck on his stick. Barys struggled to get its game going and failed to trouble the Steelmen even when it had a power play midway through the first period, while Metallurg extended its lead in the 16th minute when it gained a numerical advantage. Nikolai Goldobin, one of the most eye-catching performers in the series, set up Nikolai Prokhorkin for the second goal.
It was clear that the Metallurg special teams were raising their game: the home team was strong on the PK, denying Barys space to work, and showed plenty of speed on the PP. Midway through the second period, Goldobin’s purple patch continued when Prokhorkin repaid the favor from the first period and set up his team-mate for number three. Goldobin now has 8 (5+3) points in the playoffs and maintains his impressive record against Barys this season.
Midway through the second period, Barys got on the scoreboard at last when Curtis Valk was finally able to convert a power play. He was alert to puck’s progress as it bounced around in front of the net and fired home to give the visitor some hope. However, instead of building on that breakthrough, Barys remained sloppy on defense and allowed Taylor Beck and Dennis Rasmussen to take the game away.
The third period began with Metallurg leading 5-1 and Barys goalie Joni Ortio replaced by Henrik Karlsson. The Swedish-born netminder saw his first action in this series since an unhappy opening game that ended with Magnitka winning 7-4. At the other end, Vasily Koshechkin was back in action from the start after he, too, was replaced during that initial goal rush. The veteran Koshechkin enjoyed a peaceful end to the game, with Vorobyov’s team enjoying so much control of the game that it could allow a first-ever post season shift to Danila Yurov, the 17-year-old forward who took his first steps in the KHL this season.
The teams return to Kazakhstan for Friday’s game, which could conclude the first-round action in the East.
(Avangard wins the series 4-1)
Avangard joins Ak Bars in the Eastern Conference semi-finals after wrapping its series against Avtomobilist in five games. The Hawks ran into turbulence at the start of this game, with the Motormen getting on top in the first period. The loss of Ilya Kovalchuk midway through the first period did little to help the home team after it fell behind, but a powerful performance in the middle stanza ensured that Avtomobilist’s efforts would ultimately be in vain.
One of the most intriguing sub-plots in this series has been the battle between two of Russia’s top players of the 21st century — Datsyuk and Kovalchuk. The two were involved in the biggest moments of the first period here, and the Avtomobilist captain definitely had the better of the experience. Pavel Datsyuk opened the scoring in the sixth minute, potting a rebound to grab a power play goal that was confirmed by the video review. Kovalchuk, though, saw his game ended after 10 minutes when he was ejected following an ill-timed check on Alexander Shchemerov that saw him called for kneeing.
Avangard did well to survive the subsequent power play, but Bob Hartley’s team had plenty to think about during the first intermission. Sergei Tolchinsky, one of the leading players in the series so far, had more than most to consider. He missed a glorious early chance, then his foul led to the power play from which Datsyuk opened the scoring. But when another Hawks power play presented him with a chance early in the second, he was quick to grab his third goal of the series and tie the game when he fired home from the left-hand dot. Corban Knight was the architect.
Midway through the frame, the home team moved ahead. Kirill Gotovets pulled out a beautiful pass, setting Reid Boucher away on the counter. Boucher’s pass inside was meat-and-drink for Jiri Sekac, and Avangard had the lead. Four minutes later, it was 3-1. Alexei Bereglazov stepped up from the blue line to exchange passes with Pyotr Khokhlachyov and poke home from the slot.
The left Avtomobilist with everything to do in the third period if it was to extend the series and keep its season alive. Nobody could accuse Bill Peters’ team of not trying: in the final frame, Avangard managed just 45 seconds on the attack and had to block 10 shots. A further 10 required the attention of home goalie Igor Bobkov as Avto piled everything into its offense in search of a lifeline. Avangard responded by circling the wagons and defending in depth, doing everything it could to leave the Motormen on the perimeter. When they did get inside, Bobkov had the answers — a double save from Alexei Makeyev, a calm glove stop to deny Chay Genoway late on.
It was enough. The Hawks fly on, awaiting confirmation of their next opponent when the two outstanding series in the East are done. For Avtomobilist, though, it’s a familiar post season story. Yekaterinburg has only once enjoyed second round playoff action and this time, despite a promising start to the regular season, the team could not find its best form when it really counted.