Saint Petersburg (17:00)
Nizhny Novgorod (18:00)
Saint Petersburg (19:30)
(Salavat Yulaev leads the series 1-0)
The opening action of the second round of this year’s Gagarin Cup playoffs was cautious. In the first period, neither team was willing to show its hand early. Instead, fans in Chelyabinsk witnessed a hard-fought battle, with play concentrated in center ice or along the boards. Shots on goal were a rarity – the teams shared just 12 attempts on target in the session – and it wasn’t until the final seconds that we saw a genuine scoring chance. That fell to Traktor, with Nick Bailen getting to the slot for a shot after Nikita Tertyshny’s burst down the wing. However, Alexander Sharychenkov got a pad behind the defenseman’s effort and the teams went into the intermission without a goal between them.
At the start of the second, Salavat Yulaev managed to break the deadlock. The opening goal was credited to Stepan Sannikov, although the Ufa forward was initially bemused after he fired his shot just beyond the reach of Roman Will after the home goalie blocked a shot from Vladislav Kartayev. The puck rebounded straight out of the net and, from Sannikov’s viewpoint, it was unclear whether he had beaten the netminder or whether the Czech international had made a save. A video review confirmed that the puck had indeed crossed the goal line and the visitor claimed a 1-0 lead.
After that, though, the pattern of play quickly reverted to what we had seen in the first period. Traktor enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but struggled to generate good looks at Will’s net. Teemu Pulkkinen went close on an odd-man rush with Sergei Kalinin but for the most part Salavat was able to keep the home team to the outside. And the visitor was close to extending its lead late in the session when Alexander Kadeikin’s battles on the slot set up Viktor Tikhonov for a shot that flashed narrowly wide.
In the third period, Traktor’s dominance of the play intensified. The home cause was helped by a couple of power play chances but, once again, it foundered on a lack of good looks for the forwards. Tellingly, over the course of 60 minutes, six of Traktor’s 24 shots on goal came from defenseman Bailen, highlighting the extent to which Ufa was able to neutralize the home forwards. Even on the power play, the Chelyabinsk men found it hard to impose themselves; witness the incident midway through the third when Vladimir Tkachyov’s shot from the left-hand circle forced Sharychenkov to give up a big rebound. Even with a man advantage, the home team could not do anything with the loose puck.
At the other end, Salavat was reduced to breakaway chances, although Danil Bashkirov almost found the way to double the lead on the penalty kill when he blazed clear down the middle only to find Will’s pads. And it was tribute to the visitor’s effective pressing game that Traktor could not withdraw its goalie until a minute before the end, and was unable to call a time-out until 59:53. Ufa closed out the final seconds to take the first game of the series.