Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Avangard head coach Bob Hartley dubbed his team ‘the cardiac kids’ after a heart-stopping victory over CSKA in game four of the Gagarin Cup final. 

Avangard Omsk 4 CSKA Moscow 3 OT (0-2, 1-0, 2-1, 1-0)

(Series tied at 2-2)

A rollercoaster of a game saw the Army Men jump to a 2-0 lead before the Hawks hit back to lead late in the third. Then came a last second equalizer from Mat Robinson to force the extras, and a shorthanded winner from Pavel Dedunov to send the action back to Moscow perfectly poised at 2-2. Dedunov’s overtime heroics followed a big performance from Corban Knight, who scored one and assisted two others in regulation as CSKA, typically so disciplined, contributed to its own demise with two players removed from the game.

Photo: 24.04.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Playoffs. Final. Avangard (Omsk) - CSKA (Moscow)

There was a significant change among the forwards on both teams. For Avangard, Kirill Semyonov missed out for the first time since August 2017, ending his iron man run of 291 games. Young Arseny Gritsyuk was added to the roster as 13th forward, a role he played in four earlier playoff games, getting onto the ice in one of them. CSKA, meanwhile, welcomed back Maxim Mamin after injury forced him out of Thursday’s 2-0 victory in Balashikha.

CSKA went in front midway through the first period thanks to Anton Slepyshev. He started the move behind the Avangard net, feeding Brendan Leipsic for a shot from the slot, then finished it off from close range after Simon Hrubec padded away the initial attempt.

A couple of minutes later, Avangard was close to tying it up. Klim Kostin and Reid Boucher both had chances to stuff the puck home from close range before Artyom Blazhiyevsky handled the puck on the crease. Boucher stepped up to take the resultant penalty shot but the Hawks hotshot came off second best in his duel with Lars Johansson.

Almost immediately, CSKA responded by doubling its lead. Fit-again Mamin made it a scoring return but this was all about Pavel Karnaukhov. He won the puck in center ice, stormed down the right-hand channel and, after wrong-footing Maxim Goncharov, played a simple pass for Mamin to finish from close range.

At that point it looked as though Avangard might be on its way to yet another home loss. However, there was hope for Bob Hartley’s team late in the first period when Andrei Loktionov was ejected from the game after hooking Klim Kostin painfully between the legs. The Hawks could not convert that power play before the intermission but began the second session with 3:21 of PP remaining.

And that proved to be enough — just — for Avangard to get its first goal of the game. There were eight seconds left on the penalty when Knight forced the puck over the line after Johansson blocked a flurry of shots from Boucher and Kostin.

No sooner had Loktionov’s major penalty ended than CSKA found itself saying goodbye to another forward. Maxim Shalunov, the leading goalscorer in post-season, picked up 5+20 for a hit to the head of Andrei Stas. The Avangard man was helped to the locker room while the Army sniper was ordered to make his own way out of the game. This time, though, the visitor held on and even though Avangard was able to dominate most of the second period it could not tie the game before the second break.

However, penalty trouble remained an issue for the Army Men and eventually that would cost them. Early in the third a foul by Yegor Rykov handed Avangard yet another power play chance and this time Kostin scored the tying goal. The young forward confirmed his recovery after Loktionov’s assault and fired a rising shot past Johansson from between the hash marks after good work from Knight and Sergei Tolchinsky.

The Hawks thought they had the winner with just under four minutes to play. Knight won his face-off — a crucial change in fortune in an area where CSKA has been dominant in this series — and played the puck back to Damir Sharipzyanov. The defenseman had only one thought in mind and ripped an unstoppable shot past Johansson. But a game full of twists and turns was not done just yet. Ville Pokka took a penalty with 90 seconds left, the Army Men threw everything into saving the game and, with just one second on the clock, Mat Robinson smashed home a point shot to snatch victory away from Avangard.

And the game seemed to be tilting decisively in CSKA’s favor when Kostin took a minor penalty early in overtime. However, Pokka — whose penalty led to that late leveller — forced a turnover and sent Dedunov racing down the ice. The forward had support to his left from Pavel Zernov but opted to go it alone and fired past Johansson to tie up the series.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Related clubs

Avangard (Omsk) Avangard (Omsk)
CSKA (Moscow) CSKA (Moscow)
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