(Series tied at 1-1)
A ten-goal thriller, crowned by a roller-coaster of a second period, brought Metallurg blazing back to life in the 2022 Gagarin Cup final. Ilya Vorobyov’s team hit a rich vein of attacking form, scoring six on CSKA in a playoff game for the first time since 2015.
At times, this was more reminiscent of an exhibition game than a playoff final: the teams traded offensive plays with gusto and the second period saw a record-breaking seven goals shared between the opponents. Far from the cautious, low-risk hockey that teams often adopt when hardware is at stake, this was a day when caution was thrown to the winds and fans were treated to a rollercoaster.
True, the first period did not offer too many hints of what was to come. Metallurg got the early lead when Artyom Zemchyonok tidied up after Nikolai Goldobin’s one-timer was blocked. Zemchyonok’s feed was perfectly placed for Philippe Maillet to steer the puck beyond Ivan Fedotov six minutes into the game. After that, the teams continued to create opportunities but the score remained 1-0 at the first intermission.
Then things went up a notch. Pavel Karnaukhov set up Vitaly Abramov for an equalizer early in the second period. A couple of minutes passed, then the teams scored two goals in seven seconds: Linus Hultstrom’s point shot briefly put Magnitka back in front, Mikhail Grigorenko went straight down the ice to tie it up once more.
There was no time to pause. Metallurg regained its lead just 37 seconds later when Linus Videll went around the back to set up Arkhip Nekolenko on the slot. In the space of 3:04 of game time, the teams shared four goals and the home time still had a slender lead.
The helter-skelter action was typified by the play midway through the session. First, Videll’s misplaced pass presented Artyom Sergeyev with a chance to tie the scores for CSKA. The Swede recovered, and set up Denis Zernov with a great opportunity to make it 4-2. That didn’t come off, and CSKA went to the other end and tied it up at 3-3 when Sergei Plotnikov won his battle on the back boards and played an inch perfect feed onto Anton Slepyshev’s stick for the forward to pick out the top corner.
Late in the second period, though, Metallurg opened a two-goal lead for the first time in the game. Maxim Karpov’s elegantly executed pass created the go-ahead goal for Denis Zernov, then Brendan Leipsic made it 5-3 when he followed up to convert the rebound from Philippe Maillet’s shot.
That made it seven goals in the second period, the most productive 20 minutes of any Gagarin Cup final game since the first campaign back in 2009. For visiting goalie Fedotov it was an unwanted first: never before had he allowed four goals in a playoff game. And there could have been even more goals: between Magnitka’s fourth and fifth markers, CSKA twice forced good saves from Koshechkin as Popov and Slepyshev threatened.
The third period was always going to struggle to match that, and Metallurg’s determination to apply a pressing game that stifled CSKA’s opportunities ensured there would be far fewer scoring chances. The Muscovites enjoyed plenty of possession but rarely got an chance to explore areas that might cause Magnitka pain.
Instead, it was Metallurg that put the game beyond reach. A penalty on Plotnikov slowed CSKA’s progress and even when the former Magnitka forward returned to the game, the home team continued to threaten. A breakaway chance saw Nikolai Goldobin produce some superb stick-handling, slaloming between two attempted poke checks on his way to scoring his team’s sixth goal of the evening.
There was some late consolation for the visitor: a last-minute power play saw Konstantin Okulov make it 4-6 while, appropriately, playing 6-on-4 hockey. But it was too late to change the outcome of the game.