Saint Petersburg (17:00)
Nizhny Novgorod (18:00)
Saint Petersburg (19:30)
(Traktor wins the series 4-0)
Andrei Stas is not known as one of the most prolific scorers in the KHL. He’s been in the league from the very start and his career has seen him represent several clubs – including CSKA and Avangard. However, playing a hard-working, bottom six role typically forces the Belarusian international to focus on doing the dirty work and rarely gives him a chance to hit the headlines.
Today, though, brought that chance. This season, with Traktor, Stas has been more productive than in the past, scoring seven goals in regulation. And now he has an important marker from the playoffs with Monday’s game-winner deciding not only this encounter but also the first round series between Traktor and another of his former clubs, Neftekhimik.
The big moment came at the start of the third period. Yegor Fateyev dropped off the puck for Stas by the boards and he quickly whipped in a shot from an acute angle. Home goalie Alexander Sudnitsin may well be disappointed that he didn’t deal with it, but an awkward bounce on the blue paint seemed to wrong foot the netminder as the puck skipped into the net.
Neftekhimik pressed hard for the remainder of the game, but was unable to find a way to tie the scores and saw its playoff hopes end at the first hurdle.
The home team made a couple of changes to its line-up. Ansel Galimov, injured in the previous game, was an enforced absence. Andrei Chivilyov was promoted into his spot on the second line, prompting a reshuffle within the team. In addition, fit again Mikhail Sidorov returned to the third line and Maxim Berezin was deployed as a seventh blue liner.
Neftekhimik also got off to a good start, with Marat Khairullin opening the scoring on the power play in the fifth minute. Late in the frame there was almost another power play goal, this time for the visitor, but Alexei Byvaltsev’s goal-bound effort arrived at its target 0.2 seconds after the hooter sounded.
The penalty continued into the second period but did not produce a goal. Instead, the teams traded two in three minutes at equal strength. Sergei Telegin tied it up for Traktor, but Denis Vikharev quickly restored the home advantage and maintained hopes of keeping the series alive. However, those hopes took a big blow in the 36th minute when another Traktor power play saw Tomas Hyka tie it up at 2-2 going into the second intermission.
That goal was a fair reward for Traktor’s enterprising performance in the middle frame, outshooting Neftekhimik 13-5 and enjoying noticeably more possession and territory. More importantly, it set the stage for Stas to strike early in the third and steer the Chelyabinsk team into the next round.