A 3-1 win over Traktor, aided by a strong performance on defense, saw Salavat Yulaev regain the lead in this series as the action moved to Ufa. Goals from Gleb Kuzmin, Viktor Tikhonov and Nikolai Kulemin secured the verdict, with Tomas Hyka replying for the visitor.

Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3 Traktor Chelyabinsk 1 (1-0, 1-1, 1-0)

(Salavat Yulaev leads the series 2-1)

In game one of this Eastern Conference semi-final match-up, Salavat Yulaev produced a powerful defensive display to wrest a 1-0 victory in Chelyabinsk. Today, once again, Ufa produced a ring of steel around its net to frustrate the visitor and regain the lead in this series.

Although Traktor enjoyed more time on the attack – 15:50 against 12:50 – the visitor struggled to do much with that territorial advantage. Anvar Gatiyatulin’s men managed just 20 shots on goal. In the third period, when chasing the game, they were held to a solitary effort on target in the first 10 minutes and forced just seven saves out of Alexander Sharychenkov throughout the session. Notably, of the 15 shots that got through the Ufa goalie, only five came from Traktor’s forwards: Ufa did a fantastic job of keeping the visitor to the outside and ensuring that congestion in front of the net made it hard to find good shooting lanes.

The pattern was established in the first period. Traktor had more time in Ufa’s zone, attempted more shots (18-13) but Sharychenkov was only forced into action six times. The home team focussed on quality rather than quantity, ensuring that Roman Will had a busier time of it, and got the opening goal midway through the session. Stepan Sannikov got the puck away from Evgeny Kulik on the back boards and set up Gleb Kuzmin on the slot for a one-timer that beat Will.

Early in the second, Salavat Yulaev got its first power play of the game and duly doubled its lead. Viktor Tikhonov made a nuisance of himself in front of Will and although the Czech goalie managed to get a piece of Alexander Kadeikin’s shot from the right-hand circle, he saw it late and gave up a big rebound that Tikhonov was quick to tuck away.

Tellingly, for all of Traktor’s possession, the visitor’s only goal came on a breakaway. Penalties on Tomas Hyka and Albert Yarullin left the team playing 3-on-5 for a spell but when Hyka returned to the ice he skated straight onto Lukas Sedlak’s clearance and raced away to win his duel with Sharychenkov. Late in the second period, Traktor had hope, but the circumstances of the goal hardly suggested that Hyka & Co. had found a reliable passage through the home defenses.

And the final stanza underlined that point. Traktor huffed and puffed, but rarely put the Ufa net in serious jeopardy. Apart from one effort off the post, there was little sign of a tying goal and when Nikolai Kulemin potted an empty-netter it merely put the finishing touch to a game that was decided rather earlier than the scoreline might suggest.

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