We return today with the results of the Eastern Conference's opening round of the KHL's Gagarin Cup Playoffs. We saw only one series go past five games in the Western Conference, and we saw the fifth-seed down the fourth-seed in their series. Would we see any series go the distance in the Eastern Conference? Would there be any upsets? Let's find out.
The Eastern Conference teams who failed to reach the postseason include Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, Amur Khabarovsk, and Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg.
Ak Bars Kazan was the top team in the Eastern Conference with 104 points. Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk qualified for the playoffs with 77 points as the eighth-seed, three points better than Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk. With a 24-point difference, Kazan should seemingly have no problems in this series.
GAME ONE: The top-seeded Ak Bars Kazan opened the scoring at 15:32 when Janne Pesonen scored his first goal. Just 2:37 later, it was a two-goal lead as Lauris Darzins put home a powerplay marker for the home side. Kazan did get a little careless in the second period on a powerplay as Neftekhimik's Yegor Milovzorov scored a shorthanded goal at 9:56 to make it a 2-1 game. However, Lauris Darzins scored his second of the game with 1:12 left in the second period to restore Kazan's two-goal lead. Goals by Alexei Morozov and Denis Golubev sealed the deal in Game One as Kazan wins 5-1. AK BARS KAZAN LEADS 1-0.
GAME TWO: Both teams ramped up the defence in this game as chances were few and far between through the opening 40 minutes. However, Niko Kapanen put Kazan on the board just 4:49 into the third period. Nikolai Zherdev made it a 2-0 game on the powerplay at 13:58 of the final frame, and Kazan closed out the scoring at 17:54 when Ilya Nikulin scored a shorthanded goal for the 3-0 Kazan win. Konstantin Barulin recorded the 30-save shutout in the win. AK BARS KAZAN LEADS 2-0.
GAME THREE: With the series heading to Nizhnekamsk, Tatarstan, Neftekhimik would need a big effort to down the Snow Leopards. Much like Game Two, it took over forty minutes for the first goal to be scored. 8:19 into the third period, Dmitry Obukhov put Kazan on the board with his first playoff goal. Alexei Tereshchenko made it 2-0 for Kazan with his goal at 12:48. It looked like another shutout for Barulin, but Tomas Netik potted a goal to break the shutout with just 55 seconds left. Kazan wouldn't surrender another goal, and they would take Game Three by a 2-1 score. AK BARS KAZAN LEADS 3-0.
GAME FOUR: Neftekhimik needed to play desperation hockey being down 3-0 in the series, but both teams were playing chess through the opening period. Kazan would strike first when Alexei Morozov scored his second playoff goal on the powerplay at 7:22. Vitaly Shulakov would delight the home crowd with his powerplay marker at 11:29, and the game was tied 1-1. Janne Pesonen would put Kazan back up before the second period ended as he scored at 16:44. Just 2:46 into the third period, Petr Koukal would pull Neftekhimik even once again as he found a hole through Konstantin Barulin. It would be 49:53 before the red light flashed again as this game went into double-overtime. In the second extra frame, Lauris Darzins would finally beat Maxim Sokolov on Kazan's 45th shot to win the game 3-2. AK BARS KAZAN WINS 4-0.
Avangard Omsk finished atop the Chernyshev Division with 102 points, earning the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Sibir Novosibirsk finished with 84 points in the Chernyshev Division to set them up as the seventh-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, and setting up a divisional series with Avangard.
GAME ONE: The two teams started the opening game by feeling each other out before the scoring started in the second period. Unfortunately, only one team found the net in this game. Avangard got goals from five different players in leading the team to a 5-0 win in Game One, and Karri Ramo recorded the 25-save shutout. Alexander Popov led the way for Avangard with a goal and two assists as Avangard struck first in the series. AVANGARD OMSK OBLAST LEADS 1-0.
GAME TWO: After dropping the first game, Sibir responded in Game Two by stepping up their defensive efforts. Avangard matched their defensive intensity as both teams seemed content to wait for a mistake by their opponents. Avangard did make a mistake as Anton Kuryanov was sent off for throwing the puck at 16:19 of the second period, and Sibir struck on the powerplay. Nikita Zaitsev wired a puck past Karri Ramo to put Sibir up 1-0, and that would be all the scoring needed for Jeff Glass as he shut down Avangard. Sibir would take Game Two by the 1-0 score as Glass made 28 saves for the shutout and the win. SERIES TIED AT 1-1.
GAME THREE: The series shifted to Novosibirsk where Sibir appeared to have an advantage after splitting in Omsk. Game Three started well for the home team as Alexei Kopeikin scored just 1:14 into the game to put Sibir up 1-0. However, Avangard tied the game up just 3:40 later as Vladimir Pervushin scored his first playoff goal past Glass. Special teams would factor into this game as Kristian Kudroc scored a powerplay marker at 13:31 to put Sibir up 2-1 after the first period. Kudroc would strike again at 7:45 of the third period to make it a 3-1 game. With 3:24 left, Artyom Voroshilo iced the game for Sibir with his goal as they skated to the 4-1 victory. SIBIR NOVOSIBIRSK LEADS 2-1.
GAME FOUR: Both teams played cautiously through the opening period in Game Four, but Avangard opened the scoring 4:14 into the second period as Dmitry Syomin scored a shorthanded marker. Sibir would respond 3:23 later as Alexander Nikulin scored the equalizer with his first of the playoffs. Artyom Voroshilo gave Sibir the lead again at 16:10, but Avangard's Kirill Lyamin tied the game again just 1:30 later. It appeared we'd be tied going into the third period, but Anton Kuryanov scored with 16 seconds left in the second to send the teams to the dressing rooms with Avangard up 3-2. In the third period, chances were seen at both ends of the ice, but Andrei Ivanov and Pavel Valentenko scored for Avangard to ice the game by a 5-2 score. SERIES TIED AT 2-2.
GAME FIVE: If Game Fives are the most important game in a series, both teams played as cautiously as could be in this game. There were chances, but neither team made any mistakes of which the opposition could take advantage. This game went scoreless through three periods meaning we needed overtime to decide a winner, and we didn't have to wait long. Avangard's Dmitry Syomin's shot at 8:17 of the extra frame found its way past Jeff Glass, giving Avangard the 1-0 overtime victory. Karri Ramo recorded 30-save shutout in the win. AVANGARD OMSK OBLAST LEADS 3-2.
GAME SIX: It was back to Novosibirsk with Sibir needing a victory on home ice to push this series into a seventh game. Jonas Enlund helped the home team with his first goal of the playoffs at 4:53 of the first period. Kristian Kudroc doubled the Sibir lead in the second period with his powerplay goal at 6:56. And with 1:43 remaining, Stepan Sannikov iced the game with his first goal of the playoffs to give Sibir Novosibirsk the 3-0 win. Jeff Glass recorded his second shutout of the series with his 36-save effort. SERIES TIED AT 3-3.
GAME SEVEN: Both teams were all-in for this series-deciding game, but it was Avangard Omsk who struck first. Anton Belov opened the scoring at 18:06 of the first period with his first goal. Avangard's fans roared again when Alexander Perezhogin made it 2-0 at 11:36 of the second period with his first goal. From there, Karri Ramo did the rest as Sibir wouldn't score in the deciding game, and Avangard Omsk would advance after winning Game Seven by a 2-0 score. Ramo recorded 26 saves for his second shutout of the playoffs. AVANGARD OMSK OBLAST WINS 4-3.
Traktor Chelyabinsk qualified for the playoffs as the third-seeded team after posting 98 points in the Eastern Conference. Barys Astana finished one point better than Sibir Novosibirsk to qualify as the sixth-seeded team with 85 points.
GAME ONE: Barys carried the play in the first period and were rewarded for their hard work at the end of the frame. Brandon Bochenski scored a powerplay goal at 18:09 while Traktor's Evgeny Katichev was off for holding, giving Barys the 1-0 lead into the second period. Konstantin Pavov tied the game just 4:33 into the middle frame as Traktor was far more aggressive in this period. Bochenski made it a 2-1 Barys lead at 10:53, but Traktor tied the game 3:59 later as Panov matched Bochenski's goal once again. 3:31 into the third period, Vadim Krasnoslobodtsev put Barys up 3-2 as the Kazakhstan team looked to hold the lead. However, with 1:50 remaining, Maxim Yakutsenya tied the game for Traktor once again. This game would be decided in an extra frame at 14:34 when Barys' Roman Starchenko fired a shot past Michael Garnett for the 4-3 overtime win. BARYS ASTANA LEADS 1-0.
GAME TWO: If Game One was the Bochenski-Pavov show, Game Two was the Dawes-Nichushkin show. Dawes opened the scoring five minutes in for Barys, but Traktor's Valery Nichushkin responded 24 seconds later. Dawes was back for more at 10:24 of the first period, notching his second goal of the game to give Barys the 2-1 lead through the opening period. Just 2:07 into the second period, Traktor's Petri Kontiola evened the score again on a powerplay before Nigel Dawes added his hat trick goal on the powerplay at 8:22 to put Barys up 3-2. 2:23 after that, Dawes had his fourth goal of the game as Barys went up 4-2. Just for good measure, Alexei Litvinenko made it 5-2 at 14:41. Valery Nichushkin would add another goal for Traktor in the third period, but Barys Astana would skate to the 5-3 victory. BARYS ASTANA LEADS 2-0.
GAME THREE: With the series heading for two games to Astana, Kazakhstan, there was a lot to be happy about for the sixth-seeded Barys Astana fans. The excitement would be short-lived, though, as Konstantin Pavov's goal at 12:02 on the powerplay put Traktor up 1-0. The home team would respond with their own powerplay goal at 15:56 as Konstantin Rudenko evened the score. The second period started with another buzzkill for the Barys fans as Traktor's Alexei Vasilchenko scored a shorthanded goal to put the visitors up 2-1. At 16:10 of the second period, that lead became 3-1 on Yegor Dugin's first goal of the playoffs, and the remaining period was all Michael Garnett as he shut down Barys Astana to lead Traktor Chelyabinsk to the 3-1 win. BARYS ASTANA LEADS 2-1.
GAME FOUR: Barys Astana was hoping to break the trend that saw the visiting team win each of the first three games. Fyodor Polishchuk put Barys up 1-0 just 5:41 into the game, and the Kazakh team looked sharp. Nigel Dawes made it 2-0 at 4:41 in the second period on his fifth goal of the series, but Traktor responded 1:46 later when Vyacheslav Belov scored his first playoff goal. At 10:32, Maxim Karpov is hooked by Evgeny Fadeyev as he breaks in on Vitaly Yeremeyev, and that means we'll have ourselves a penalty shot! I don't usually post video in the middle of a recap, but this is a penalty shot that you've got to see.
That beautiful penalty shot goal pulls Traktor even at 2-2 through two periods. In the third period, Yegor Dugin scores at 7:25 to put Traktor up 3-2, and Michael Garnett closes the door on Barys Astana again in the 3-2 win. SERIES TIED AT 2-2.
GAME FIVE: Traktor had the momentum heading home to Chelyabinsk, but the visitors had won each of the previous four games. Would that continue? It appeared to be happening again as Brandon Bochenski opened the scoring with a powerplay goal nine minutes into the game. Traktor would respond 2:25 later as Evgeny Kuznetsov notched the equalizer, and Jan Bulis would make it a 2-1 Traktor lead on a powerplay just 2:22 after that. Before the end of the first, Traktor's Vladimir Antipov would make it a 3-1 lead with 1:07 remaining. The second period saw Jan Bulis and Deron quint make the Trakto lead into a 5-1 lead with two powerplay goals before Roman Savchenko scored a powerplay goal for Barys to cut the lead to 5-2. A Konstantin Pavov shorthanded goal with four minutes remaining nearly sealed the book on this game had it not been for a late Dustin Boyd goal to give Traktor a 6-3 win. TRAKTOR CHELYABINSK LEADS 3-2.
GAME SIX: Heading back to Astana, Barys needed a win to send this series to a Game Seven, and they got the start they didn't want to see when Petri Kontiola put Traktor up 1-0 at 13:31. However, Fyodor Polishchuk responded 2:02 to play in the first period as the two teams went into the intermission tied 1-1. 3:14 into the second, Traktor took the lead again as Alexander Shinin scored his first of the playoffs. Again, the lead was short-lived as Nigel Dawes tied the game up for Barys 4:01 later. Fyodor Polishchuk would give Barys the lead 6:13 into the third period, and Nigel Dawes would score into the empty net with 32 seconds to play to give Barys Astana the 3-2 win. SERIES TIED AT 3-3.
GAME SEVEN: Traktor jumped out to the early 1-0 lead just 5:30 into the game when Maxim Yakutsenya found some space past Pavel Poluektov. They doubled the lead at 13:03 when Maxim Karpov scored, but the lead would be only one goal through the intermission as Talgat Zhailauov got one back for Barys before the break. The second period saw Petri Kontiola score twice and Deron Quint add another for Traktor while Brandon Bochenski responded for Barys. Traktor led 5-2 after two periods. Konstantin Pushkaryov would get Barys as close as 5-3, but Michael Garnett would close out the final nine minutes with no other blemishes. TRAKTOR CHELYABINSK WINS 4-3.
In what could be the most evenly-matched series, Metallurg Magnitogorsk picked up 93 points this season for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Salavat Yulaev Ufa earned 88 points through their play this season, capturing the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
GAME ONE: Mats Zuccarello started things off right for Metallurg with his powerplay goal at 7:06 of the first period. That lead became a 2-0 lead just 52 seconds later when Dmitry Kazionov beat Iiro Tarkki. However, Salavat rallied midway through the period when Sergei Zinovyev notched a powerplay goal at 11:48, and then followed up with his second goal just 3:17 later. Salavat would grab a 3-2 lead at 8:04 of the second period when Antti Pihlstrom scored a powerplay goal. Metallurg would draw even once again at 8:30 of the third period when Viktor Antipin scored past Georgy Gelashvili. This game would need overtime to settle things, and Salavat's Alexander Svitov would end the game just 1:22 into the extra frame for the 4-3 overtime win. SALAVAT YULAEV UFA LEADS 1-0.
GAME TWO: There wasn't much scoring in Game Two as both goaltenders played well, but goals by Metallurg's Alexander Korolyuk and Sergei Mozyakin past Iiro Tarkki was all the offence needed for Georgy Gelashvili in this one. He pitched a shutout in this game, making 23 saves in helping Metallurg earn the 2-0 win. SERIES TIED AT 1-1.
GAME THREE: Both teams traded chances early on, but Metallurg would go into the intermission up 1-0 on a Sergei Mozyakin goal with six seconds left. From there, however, it would be all Salavat as Nikita Filatov scored a powerplay goal, Antti Pihlstrom added his second goal of the playoffs, and Alexande Pankov notched his first for a 3-1 Salavat lead after two periods. Vitaly Proshkin added a shorthanded goal into an empty net with 15 seconds to play as Salavat skated to the 4-1 win. SALAVAT YULAEV UFA LEADS 2-1.
GAME FOUR: It looked like Salavat was going to take a strange-hold on the series as they jumped out to a 2-0 second period lead after Brent Sopel scored a powerplay goal and Andrei Zubarev scored his first goal. However, it was Metallurg in the third period as Cal O'Reilly scored 2:52 into the third period to make it a 2-1 game before adding a second goal to tie the game with 3:21 to play. This game was destined for overtime had it not been for Metallurg's Mats Zuccarello scoring with four seconds to play to give Metallurg Magnitogorsk the 3-2 victory! SERIES TIED AT 2-2.
GAME FIVE: In a tied series, a loss in this game puts a ton of pressure on the team that falls, so Metallurg got their act together and jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Milan Gulas goal 11:45 into the game. Gulas would strike again in the second period at 29:28 to put Metallurg up by a pair. Salavat would finally solve Ari Ahonen in this game at the 3:10 mark of the third period when Stefan Ruzicka pulled his team within one goal. But there would be no other pucks that got past either goaltender, and Mettalurg rode their early lead to a 2-1 win. METALLURG MAGNITOGORSK LEADS 3-2.
GAME SIX: Desperation mode was on in Ufa as the team returned home, and Salavat jumped out to a two-goal lead after the first period as Igor Mirnov's powerplay goal was followed by Alexei Kaigorodov's goal. Penalties got Salavat in trouble early in the second period as Justin Hodgman scored a powerplay goal 1:37 into the period, followed by a second powerplay marker scored by Alexander Korolyuk just 3:25 later to even the score. Salavat would use a powerplay of their own to go back up by a goal with 3:43 to play in the period when Denis Khlystrov scored. It looked like the game would go into the intermission tied 3-3 after Milan Gulas scored at 17:17, a mere one minute after Khlystrov scored, but Denis Khlystrov put Salavat back on top 27 seconds with his second goal after Gulas' goal. And Salavat would close out the period with Brent Sopel making it 5-3 just 47 seconds before the buzzer. Iiro Tarkki would play big in the third period, but he was finally beaten at the 17:23 mark by Milan Gulas to pull Metallurg within a goal. They would get no closer, though, as Salavat closed out the game by a 5-4 score. SERIES TIED AT 3-3.
GAME SEVEN: One would imagine that both teams would play desperate hockey in this game, doing whatever is necessary to score a goal and grab a lead. Instead, both teams played scoreless hockey through the opening period. Salavat would break the deadlock as Nikita Filatov scored 8:28 into the second period. Ari Ahonen and Iiro Tarkki, however, were outstanding in the nets aside from the one goal that Ahonen surrendered. With the Ahonen on the bench and Metallurg pressing, Alexei Kaigorodov potted the empty net insurance markerwith 1:04 to play. Salavat would win the game 2-0 with Iiro Tarkki picking up the 17-save shutout. SALAVAT YULAEV UFA WINS 4-3.
Much like the Western Conference, the teams get shuffled so that top-seeded Ak Bars Kazan faces fifth-seeded Salavat Yulaev Ufa in one semi-final while second-seeded Avangard Omsk Oblast meets third-seeded Traktor Chelyabinsk in the other semi-final. Updates will come next week as the Gagarin Cup Playoffs push on!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!