Metallurg's missed opportunities
At the time of the series' move to Magnitogorsk, Metallurg did not have a single victory and was inferior to Avangard with a score of 0-2. However, there was no reason to panic. Ilya Vorobyov's charges, although they lost twice, but both times imposed a fierce struggle, and in the previous meeting they managed to recoup from 0:3 and almost took the upper hand. Unforced sending-offs ruined, which cost Magnitogorsk two goals conceded, one of which turned out to be decisive. And it was extremely curious whether the hosts would be able to reduce the number of unnecessary violations and not allow Omsk to use their excellent special team of the majority - the most effective in the current playoffs (33.3% of realization).
The hosts scored their first penalty minutes in the first period. Pavel Akolzin went to the bench for the bandwagon, but his partners managed to contain the Hawks. However, the Magnitogorsk residents themselves also could not take advantage of the numerical advantage, although they spent twice as much time in the majority. And thus only strengthened the status of the worst team in the Gagarin Cup in the implementation of the excess.
But Vorobyov's charges scored in equal compositions. Philippe Maillet went to the flank and shot to the spot, where Maxim Karpov turned out to be the most agile. Not without the mistake of Vasily Demchenko. Expecting a cross to the opposite edge, the goalkeeper began to shift to the post and allowed the striker to "shoot" a virtually empty target. And also to break the "dry" series of 23 matches.
However, this goal helped Metallurg only to restore parity. Six minutes ago, Avangard opened the scoring in the confrontation, and in this case, Demchenko's counterpart did not play the best way. Eddie Pasquale's cross was not the sharpest, but the goalie deflected the puck straight to the spot, where Korban Knight was guarding. The Canadian easily dealt with his compatriot and scored points in the fifth meeting in a row.
After the first break, Metallurg only increased the pressure on the opponent's goal. If in the first period they surpassed him by a third in accurate shots on target (11: 7), then in the first half of the second they made seven times more shots (7: 1). But none of them ever brought them leadership. But Avangard got a great chance, in the middle of the period again forcing Yegor Yakovlev to go to the penalty box. But against four opponents, Omsk spent only a minute and a half - Arseniy Gritsyuk hit Grigory Dronov with his shoulder and went to serve his sentence himself. Although we could have done even less if the puck after Semyon Chistyakov's "shot" had hit not the post, but the net.
However, Metallurg did not get tired of squandering chances in unequal line-ups. They could not score either this time or in those two minutes when Fyodor Malykhin received an unscheduled rest, hitting the opponent with a stick. But we almost missed it ourselves. The Vanguard striker, who broke free, rushed forward and threw a great shot into the distance, but this time Pasquale played confidently.
In the third period, Vorobyov's charges continued to press and generally acted as the first number. They managed to control the puck in the opponent's zone for a long time and create good chances, but Demchenko stood by the wall. His mood was not knocked down by a collision with Nikolai Goldobin, after which he could not recover for some time, and even a medical staff employee appeared on the ice.
But "Magnitogorsk" did not calm down and still achieved its goal. Yes, it was not possible to take advantage of viktor Svedberg's sending off and slightly correct the statistics, but after his return to the ice behind Demchenko's goal, a red light still came on. Brendan Laipsik put Grigory Dronov in a striking position, and he irresistibly clicked into the corner. However, Metallurg led only 75 seconds. Literally, in the next full-fledged attack, the Swede rehabilitated for incontinence and restored parity. And this goal was his first in 34 games of the Gagarin Cup.
Thus, the match turned into overtime, for which Magnitogorsk did not have enough strength. In less than five minutes, they never bothered Demchenko, while Pasquale had to demonstrate his skills six times. And in the end, the Canadian flinched. The hosts once again lost a faceoff in their own zone and allowed the visitors two shots. The first managed to block, but the "shot" of Arseniy Gritsyuk reached the target. Avangard defeated Metallurg for the third time in a row.
On the eve of the third match between Lokomotiv and CSKA, one of the main intrigues was whether Sergei Plotnikov would take to the ice. Two days ago, one of the leaders of the army was injured and played only ten minutes. But even without him, Sergei Fedorov's charges managed to squeeze their opponents and take another step towards the Western Conference Finals. However, the injury was not serious. The former Pittsburgh forward was in the squad and traditionally positioned himself in the lineup with Vladislav Kamenev and Konstantin Okulov.
Igor Nikitin, on the contrary, made a number of substitutions in comparison. Maxim Osipov, Artem Ilyenko and Mikhail Belyaev went to the reserve, and their places in the base were taken by Daniil Misyul, Daniil Tesanov and Ivan Chekhovich. And the last of them became the main character of the first period. Already at the 88th second, the striker scored in the majority and put Lokomotiv ahead, and ten minutes later to do it again - already in equal compositions. By this time, CSKA had already managed to restore parity through the efforts of Maxim Mamin, but not for long. He also succeeded in drawing too much.
At the same time, it cannot be said that the score was on the game. In previous meetings, the Muscovites were devastatingly inferior to Yaroslavl in shots, and in the first periods they completely bothered the opponent's goalkeeper almost six times less (5:29), but this time they acted as aggressively as ever. In the opening 20 minutes alone, the puck reached Daniil Isaev 12 times (a record figure for CSKA in the series), while Adam Reideborn received only seven. However, this time the efficiency was much higher for the railwaymen, which could not but alarm the coaching staff of the army men.
After the break, the teams continued to bombard each other's goal, but this time Lokomotiv looked a little more active. At times, CSKA pressed the opponent on his third of the court for a long time, but could not always bring the offensive to its logical conclusion. Nevertheless, it was not without goals. The visitors responded to the monstrous force of the click of the hosts' defender Rushan Rafikov with a two-move with the participation of Plotnikov and Okulov. The first passed to his partner, and he got exactly into the "house" of Isaev.
Lokomotiv was not upset and increased the gap before the end of the period. If Alexander Polunin and Maxim Shalunov could not use the great chances, then Chekhovich was unstoppable. The former San Jose forward was in the right place again at the right time and finished off the spot, scoring the second hat-trick in the KHL. And 42 seconds later, Alexander Elesin upset Reideborn for the fifth time.
Thus, Fedorov's wards faced an extremely difficult task. Two days ago, they had already made an incredible comeback from 0-2, but this time they needed to play back a deficit of three goals - and in just 20 minutes. And they had to start the period with four of them. Three seconds before the siren, Vladimir Bryukvin rudely fouled Alexei Marchenko and was sent off for pushing aboard.
And although the army men had plenty of chances to reduce the gap, they could not take advantage of any of them. At times, even opponents helped them. The same Nikita Cherepanov, who made a loss in his own zone and allowed andrei Svetlakov to be brought to a striking position. But neither he nor Darren Dietz and Anton Slepysh were able to catch Isaev by surprise for the third time. He made 26 saves and became one of the main creators of success. The point was put by Pavel Kraskovsky, who scored in the majority. Lokomotiv defeated CSKA at home and revived the intrigue in the struggle for the second place in the final of the West.