(Traktor leads the series 3-2)
Both teams were missing key players in this game – and their absence stemmed from the same incident in Traktor’s 7-1 victory in Ufa on Wednesday. Traktor’s Czech forward Lukas Sedlak suffered an injury in that clash and was not available here, while Salavat Yulaev came into this game without captain Grigory Panin. He was handed a three-game suspension for his hit on Sedlak, which was followed by a fight Nick Bailen.
Salavat Yulaev got in front midway through the first period with a somewhat freakish goal from Alexander Kadeikin. The visiting center seemed to have few options when Sergei Shmelyov’s pass sent him into the corner, but he managed to turn away from two defensemen and fire the puck from the back boards to the slot. On its way, it cannoned off Roman Will’s pad and into the net.
It proved to the be only goal of a fast-paced opening session. The teams traded opportunities and it would have been no travesty if Traktor had levelled the scores before the intermission. However, in the second period, it seemed that Salavat Yulaev was taking control of the game. The visitor enjoyed the lion’s share of attacking possession – and would do so until the end of the game – and limited Traktor to just four shots on goal in the frame. However, the home team proved more effective despite limited opportunities.
Midway through the second period, the tempo leapt up a notch with big moments at both ends. First, Alexei Pustozyorov was close to doubling the visitor’s lead. A defense-splitting pass sent him through on Will’s net, but as the youngster looked for the top shelf he flashed his shot narrowly wide of the target.
Moments after Pustozyorov’s chance, Traktor tied the game. After a face-off win in the Salavat end, Lawrence Pilut and Albert Yarullin moved the puck along the blue line before setting up Vitaly Kravtsov for a wrister from the center of the zone. Kravtsov collected his fifth goal and eighth point of this year’s playoffs.
In the third period, the teams continued the patterns we had seen in the second. Salavat Yulaev had the possession, the territorial advantage and generated the bulk of the efforts on goal. However, it was Traktor that once again had the clearer chances. As the game moved towards its closing stages, Sergei Kalinin and Alexei Byvaltsev battled away in front of the net and got the puck beyond Alexander Sharychenkov, only for a defenseman to hack it off the goal line.
A couple of minutes after that, though, Traktor did get the goal it craved. An offensive zone penalty on Viktor Tikhonov gave the home team a power play in the 54th minute, and that led to the game-winner. Pilut quarterbacked the play and exchanged passes with Byvaltsev before launching a slapshot that rocketed into the net from the blue line.
There was still time for Salavat Yulaev to find a way back into the game, but even after replacing Sharychenkov with a sixth skater, the visitor could not unpick Traktor’s defense. The closing minute saw the home team blocking shots and doggedly protecting Will’s net on its way to a vital win that could shape the destiny of this series. The teams meet again on Sunday in Bashkortostan, with Traktor one win away from progressing.