(Avangard leads the series 2-1)
Boucher was not the only notable performer. Goalie Simon Hrubec posted his first playoff shut-out in the KHL, stopping 28 shots as he collected back-to-back wins. And there were goals for Denis Zernov and Yegor Chinakhov, with the youngster notching his second of the post season to set the seal on this victory.
The start of the series in Balashikha probably left Metallurg the happier of the two teams. In any match-up, the lower-ranked team tends to regard grabbing an early road win as its first priority and Magnitka did that in game one thanks to a powerful third period display. There was little between the teams in game two, with Avangard getting the verdict in overtime, and Ilya Vorobyov’s team returned home to get a further boost with the return of Yegor Yakovlev from injury. The experienced defenseman began the playoffs with two goals and an assist in game one against Barys but picked up a knock and played no further part before today. Avangard, meanwhile, felt no need for significant changes.
The first period was even. Metallurg enjoyed more possession, but Avangard fashioned more scoring chances and the visitor opened the scoring midway through the session. Ilya Kovalchuk started the play, neutralizing three opponents as he moved into the Magnitka zone and spread a pass out wide to Nikita Komarov. Then came Zernov’s neat finish, redirecting Komarov’s feed beyond the reach of Juho Olkinuora.
There was no further scoring in the second period but both teams had their chances. Olkinuora, in particular, made some big saves as he blocked Pyotr Khokhlachyov following an error from Philip Holm and, at the end of the session, denied the same forward in spectacular style as he sought to redirect Kirill Semyonov’s slap shot. Hrubec’s work was less eye-catching, but the Czech also made some important stops, notably to deny Nikolai Kulemin after Arkhip Nekolenko’s hard work presented a shooting chance from close range.
Metallurg made a better start to the third period, but found it hard to turn possession into testing shots at Hrubec. And, steadily, Avangard’s offense began to rediscover its game. Boucher was close to adding a second in the 46th minute when a shot bounced back to him off the back boards, but three minutes later he succeeded in similar circumstances. The Canadian’s first effort went wide of the target but he skated on to collect the rebound on the goal line and fired back to the slot. The puck clipped the inside of Olkinuora’s pad and deflected into the net, making it 5 (3+2) points from five playoff outings so far following a seven game, 11-point streak at the end of the regular season.
Subsequently, the home team continued to have more of the puck but also continued to struggle when it came to cutting through the Avangard defense. With time running out, Vorobyov gambled early, calling Olkinuora to the bench with more than three minutes on the clock. On this occasion, though, going all-in left Metallurg wiped out: Chinakhov stole the puck and scored into the empty net, wrapping up a shut-out win for Bob Hartley’s team and tipping the pressure onto Magnitogorsk ahead of Wednesday’s encounter.