It’s eyes down for a game seven showdown in the 2022 Gagarin Cup final. CSKA earned a 2-1 verdict on home ice to square the series and send us back to Magnitogorsk for a winner-take-all battle on Saturday.

CSKA Moscow 2 Metallurg Magnitogorsk 1 (2-0, 0-1, 0-0)

(Series tied at 3-3)

After trailing 1-3 in the series, CSKA had already survived one eliminator in Magnitogorsk. Now Sergei Fedorov’s team had to do it all again, this time on home ice. The reward was a chance to play for the big prize in game seven. Metallurg, meanwhile, was looking to wrap up the season at the second attempt and escape the emotional stress of a deciding game.

If CSKA went into action with largely the same team that won in overtime in the Urals – Fedorov making a couple of tweaks to the fourth line, nothing more – Metallurg had three changes. Scratching Yaroslav Khabarov for Mikhail Pashnin was a big call; the latter had not played for a month. Semyon Koshelev and Arkhip Nekolenko were also left out, with Nikita Korostelyov returning to the first line and Pavel Akolzin joining the fourth.

Needing a win to tie the series, CSKA made a fast start to game six. The Muscovites got in front in the fourth minute when Sergei Plotnikov took control of a rebound from the boards and set up Vladislav Kamenev for a shot to the top shelf.

Metallurg tried to respond immediately when Philippe Maillet fed Brendan Leipsic, but as the Canadian advanced on the net he fired his shot over the bar. Generally, the visitor had a good share of the play but was unable to tie the scores. Then a penalty on Mikhail Pashnin invited CSKA to double its lead and Mikhail Grigorenko duly obliged as Plotnikov once again unlocked the Magnitka defense.

Plotnikov was close to adding a third a couple of minutes later, but after winning the puck on the boards and bearing down on the net he was unable to outwit Vasily Koshechkin in the visitor’s goal and the period ended with CSKA up 2-0.

The middle stanza saw CSKA enjoy more of the game, outshooting Metallurg 14-7. However, the home team was unable to add to its lead. There were good chances, with Grigorenko wasting a great opening on the power play early in the session and Danil Yurtaikin’s backhander giving Koshechkin an awkward moment midway through the frame.

However, the only goal of the period went to Metallurg when Andrei Chibisov broke clear and beat Ivan Fedotov at the second attempt to make it a one-goal game going into the third.

In that final session, CSKA deployed a pressing game and looked to keep Metallurg at arm’s length. The action was intense, spilling over into a fight that saw four players sin-binned just before the hooter. However, the home tactics did a good job of controlling the closing stages and apart from one big opportunity for Maillet on the power play, there was little to frighten Fedotov as his team held on.

Saturday’s decider promises to be a fascinating clash. Metallurg has home ice advantage and, in coach Ilya Vorobyov, has a man with ample experience of winning this trophy. CSKA, though, has the momentum after back-to-back wins brought it back from the brink.

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Metallurg (Magnitogorsk) Metallurg (Magnitogorsk)
CSKA (Moscow) CSKA (Moscow)
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