Saint Petersburg (17:00)
Nizhny Novgorod (18:00)
Saint Petersburg (19:30)
This Eastern Conference clash was widely expected to be a cagey affair: before today’s game, Avangard head coach Bob Hartley admitted that these two teams know all about each other and the series was likely to be decided by fine margins. So nobody expected a goal rush in the early stages, nor a pair of short-handed goals to take the game away from the home team.
The first period exploded into life with the teams trading four goals inside nine minutes. Avangard got off to a fast start when Nikita Soshnikov redirected Oliwer Kaski’s point shot past Timur Bilyalov. The home goalie tried to interest people in a challenge for a high stick, but to no avail.
It didn’t take long for Ak Bars to tie the scores, though. Just three minutes later, Eric Fehr got clear of Corban Knight on the slot and steered a Nikita Dynyak feed home. But the breathless action continued, and Knight soon had an opportunity to show off his skills at the other end of the ice. A swift exchange of passes involving Ville Pokka and Arseny Gritsyuk ended with the Canadian forward snaffling his first goal of these playoffs.
Once again, Ak Bars found a speedy riposte. Artyom Lukoyanov found Mikhail Glukhov in the danger zone and, with just 8:24 played, the score was 2-2. It stayed that way until the intermission, although late in the frame Gritsyuk emerged from the box to conjure a dangerous moment for Bilyalov.
In the second period, Avangard took control of the game – but did so in unlikely fashion. The Hawks scored two shorthanded goals to open a 4-2 lead and leave Ak Bars frustrated. The first goal came in the 24th minute after Bob Hartley’s team won a defensive face-off and released Ivan Telegin to skate clear and beat Bilyalov. Then, after goalie Simon Hrubec was penalized for delaying the game, Kirill Semyonov’s persistence forced a turnover on the Ak Bars blue line. Semyonov found Pavel Dedunov, who was sitting out the penalty on the first shorthanded goal, and he took full advantage of the space available to him in the home team’s zone.
Avangard began the third period looking to put the game out of reach. Bilyalov was called upon twice in the first couple of minutes, first denying Sergei Tolchinsky then blocking Nikolai Prokhorkin’s effort. After that lively start, the game changed, with Ak Bars looking to get back into contention while the Hawks were happy to run down the clock. An empty net goal from Soshnikov – scorer of the first-minute opener – gave the scoring a certain symmetry as the teams head to Balashikha with Avangard well on top.