(Avangard leads the series 3-2)
The Hawks welcomed back forward Kirill Semyonov, whose record-breaking run of 291 consecutive appearances came to an end on Saturday. He replaced Andrei Stas, who was on the receiving end of a hit to the head from Maxim Shalunov in that game. Shalunov got a one-game suspension for that foul, which brought Nikita Soshnikov back to the team after missing the previous three games.
CSKA, still smarting from the short-handed goal that cost it victory in game four, began the game at a fast tempo. As early as the third minute, Oliwer Kaski was reduced to grabbing at Andrei Svetlakov in a bid to halt the home forward’s advance to the slot. The handed the Army Men the first power play of the game and consolidated the host’s early ascendancy.
However, the opening goal would not come and Avangard came into the game more as the action wore on. CSKA still had more of the puck but found it progressively harder to get it into the danger zone and the visitor looked increasingly dangerous on the counter.
And in the second period, that counter-attacking prowess put Avangard in control of the scoreboard. Damir Sharipzyanov broke the deadlock, finding the net for the second game running five minutes into the middle frame. Ilya Kablukov forced a turnover and Semyonov powered into CSKA territory with defenseman Sharipzyanov making the running alongside him. The Hawks’ forward served up a dish, cutting out the defensive efforts of Artyom Blazhiyevsky and Ivan Telegin to present Sharipzyanov with the scoring chance.
And the visitor extended its lead late in the stanza with its second short-handed goal in successive games. Reid Boucher did it all by himself, claiming possession in his own zone, charging down the right-hand channel and dancing away from Bogdan Kiselevich with an improvised spin-o-rama before beating Lars Johansson from close range.
Away from those two goals, CSKA continued to have the better of the play, only to founder against a wall of Avangard defense. The Army Men had almost three times as much offensive possession and generated 21 attempts. However, it was a testament to the resilience of Bob Hartley’s team that Simon Hrubec only had to deal with eight shots on his net; 12 shots were blocked as the Hawks worked hard to keep the opposition to the outside, even while killing two penalties.
In the third period the pattern was often similar. Things might have been different if Telegin’s early shot flashed just inside the post, rather than flying narrowly wide. Subsequently, CSKA had plenty of the puck and spent a good amount of time in Avangard territory. However, it was rarely able to get deep into the opposition’s zone. There were some anxious moments for Hrubec — a deflected shot had the goalie at full stretch to recover his position before Sharipzyanov cleared away the danger on the slot — and Hartley called a time-out midway through the session to re-focus his team on its task.
That did not quell CSKA’s offensive intent, with Konstantin Okulov setting off fireworks in front of Hrubec but unable to find a way past the Czech international. At the other end, Lars Johansson left the game with 108 seconds to play and the extra attacker almost helped the home team make a late breakthrough. Brendan Leipsic’s rush down the right ended with a powerful shot that clipped the outside of the post and flew wide of the net; with it, CSKA’s hopes of saving the game evaporated.
The teams return to Balashikha on Wednesday with Avangard one victory away from securing its first ever Gagarin Cup.