(Traktor leads the series 1-0)
The opening game of this series turned into a thriller, with Traktor coming from behind to justify its seeding in a seven-goal tussle with Neftekhimik.
The first period was dominated by penalties, with the two teams trading seven minors in that opening stanza. Neftekhimik found itself absorbing more of the pressure in those early exchanges but the visitor held on and took the lead in the 18th minute. The goal came from Vyacheslav Leshchenko, who produced a seven-game goalscoring streak during the regular season and also found the Traktor net in his last competitive action back on Jan. 12. Today he beat Roman Will after a flurry of shots from close range left the Czech goalie over extended.
However, discipline was still an issue. Sergei Kuptsov and Pavel Poryadin picked up penalties on the same shift, reducing Neftekhimik to three skaters for a full two minutes. Teemu Pulkkinen did not need so long to tie the game. But Traktor, too, fell foul of the officials and when Neftekhimik got a five-on-three situation of its own, Poryadin was the man to restore the lead.
That advantage lasted barely three minutes before yet another penalty — this time for Maxim Berezin — helped Nick Bailen level the game once more and the final stanza began with the teams deadlocked at 2-2.
Two soon became three for each team, with Ansel Galimov restoring Neftekhimik’s lead only to see another power play cost the visitor. Traktor trailed for less than two minutes before Lukas Klok went to the box for roughing and his compatriot Lukas Sedlak stuffed home a tying goal. Oleg Leontiyev challenged the play, claiming interference on goalie Alexander Sudnitsin, but the video review upheld on the on-ice decision and the teams were level once more with little over 10 minutes on the clock.
The first overtime of this year’s playoffs seemed to be inevitable, but Nikita Tertyshny had other ideas. The youngster had plenty to do when he collected Sedlak’s pass out of the left-hand boards, but he did everything. There was strength to get into the corner and out behind the net, then vision to spot a line of attack on the wraparound. Finally, there was precision — a backhand finish at the far post to beat Sudnitsin and put Traktor in front for the first time in the game.
With barely two minutes left, Neftekhimik’s first task was to secure puck possession and get a platform from which it could pull the goalie and launch a final storm. Traktor did well to delay that as far as possible, and it wasn’t until 59:12 that an attacking face-off enabled Leontiyev to call a time-out and bring Sudnitsin to the bench. However, those last few seconds were not enough to save the game, with Knot’s one-timer deflected over the Perspex as Traktor held on to take the early lead in the series.