Friday, 3 March 2017

KHL - Playoffs - Round 1 - Metallurg Magnitogorsk v Kunlun Red Star - Metallurg Win Series 4-1

Game 1 - Metallurg v Kunlun 4-2 - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Two goals in seven seconds at the start of the second period defused any danger of the defending champion suffering a shock against the KHL’s newcomer. Tomas Filippi’s second of the game was quickly followed by a marker for Yaroslav Kosov to put the outcome beyond doubt. It was rough justice for Kunlun, which had adapted well to its first ever taste of playoff action. The visitor made a cautious start, but after going behind in the eighth minute the Chinese team regrouped and threatened an equalizer. Metallurg’s opener came after Chris Lee thwarted an attempted breakaway; his clearance turned defense right back into offense and Filippi raced on to the loose puck before firing over Tomi Karhunen’s glove from the left-hand face-off spot. That did not dampen Kunlun’s enthusiasm for further raids on Ilya Samsonov’s net, and the young Magnitka goalie was fortunate to escape when Max Warn got his stick on a slapshot, wrongfooting the goaltender but seeing the puck go agonizingly wide of the post. It proved to be Kunlun’s best chance for an equalizer, though, as the middle stanza began with the home team in clinical mood. Oskar Osala served warning to Kunlun in the 21st minute, spotting a chance to attack as the visitor changed on the fly. Brett Bellemore had to make up ground from his own bench to block the Finn’s shot and keep the score at 1-0.
Not for long, though. Filippi got his second on 21:51, producing a shot similar to his opener. Then Kosov added a third straight from the restart, firing the puck in from the left and enjoying a kind bounce off Joonas Jarvinen’s stick. Andrei Makarov came into the game in place of Karhunen and Kunlun looked to begin the long journey back into contention. It wasn’t to be. Magnitka continued to dominate, with Kosov hitting the post before Tuukka Mantyla picked up a 2+10 penalty for a high hit on Sergei Mozyakin. That power play saw Viktor Antipin make it 4-0 with a close-range finish off a Danis Zaripov pass. Kunlun refused to give up, despite facing an almost hopeless task in the final stanza. Mantyla, the Finnish D-man who claimed his team’s first ever game-winning goal in the KHL, added another footnote to Red Star’s history by claiming the team’s first ever playoff marker in the 43rd minute. He repeated the trick in the 50th, to cut the deficit to 2-4, but his ever-dangerous slap shots were not enough of a threat to kick-start a serious revival and Metallurg held on for the win.

Game 2 - Metallurg v Kunlun 4-3 - Friday, February 24, 2017

A hat-trick from Oskar Osala led Magnitka to a second victory in this series, but Sergei Mozyakin is still waiting for his 1,000thpoint in Russian club hockey.
Instead, the scoring milestone for the day was inscribed by Kunlun’s Zach Yuen, who became the first Chinese-eligible player to hit the net in post-season action when he tied the game at 3-3 late in the second period. As the home defense crowded around Alexei Ponikarovsky, Brett Bellemore drilled the puck across the ice to Yuen and he fired into the unguarded portion of Vasily Koshechkin’s net to make another little bit of hockey history. Kunlun’s joy was short-lived, though. Osala made it 4-3 with a short-handed goal early in the third. Alexei Bereglazov halted a Red Star raid, Denis Platonov sent the Finn off to the races and Osala won his duel with Andrei Makarov to claim the eventual game-winner. His empty net goal 44 seconds from the hooter merely confirmed the outcome. But the Chinese team can take heart from a hugely competitive performance in game two. Osala opened the scoring in the first period, converting a fantastic pass from Alexander Semin, but Kunlun hit back to lead in the second session thanks to a pair of goals from Sean Collins. First, the Canadian collected Chad Rau’s pass from behind the net to tie the scores; next, on the power play, he deflected a Tobias Viklund shot against the piping and reacted fastest to put away the rebound. Red Star led 2-1, and a shock was brewing. However, just as in the first game, Metallurg produced a quick-fire goal blitz to turn this game around. On Wednesday, it was two goals in seven seconds; today it was two in 32. Danis Zaripov made the first, recovering play behind the Kunlun net and finding Jan Kovar in the circle. The Czech showed off some soccer skills to get the puck under control before firing his shot into the top corner. Then Platonov’s high speed break stretched Makarov before Vladislav Kaletnik put Metallurg 3-2 ahead. The series moves to Beijing on Sunday, with China getting ready to stage its first ever KHL playoff games. However, with Metallurg leading the series 2-0, Kunlun must secure at least one victory if fans in the Middle Kingdom are to see any further action on home ice this season.

Game 3 - Kunlun v Metallurg 1-2 - Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sergei Mozyakin has dominated so many playoff games down the years that it is little to surprise to see him deliver a clutch goal in postseason. But Sunday’s go-ahead marker in Beijing was a little bit special, it brought the forward his 1,000th point in Russian club hockey. It’s an unprecedented feat. No player in history has reached four figures in the Soviet or post-Soviet eras. His closest rival, Maxim Sushinsky, managed 818, a mark that Mozyakin surpassed back in March 2015. It also adds to the clutch of new records that Moyzakin, already a two-time Gagarin Cup winner, has set this season. Like so many of his goals for Metallurg, Mozyakin’s big moment began with a pass from Danis Zaripov that picked him out on the right-hand face-off spot. This time, though, there was no instant shot. Instead he approached the net, drew Tomi Karhunen out of position and, even after the puck slid beyond the goal line, evaded the attentions of Tuukka Mantyla to hook it back and slide it into the net. As well as achieving another landmark, it was a vital goal in this game, and possibly this series. Kunlun, playing the first ever postseason game in China, had shown every sign of treating the home crowd to an inspiring victory over the defending champion. Linus Videll’s first-period goal gave the Dragons something to roar about, the Swede converting a power play chance in stunning style as he beat all four Magnitka skaters before scoring on Vasily Koshechkin.
Magnitogorsk did not find it easy to get back into the game, with Kunlun restricting opportunities for one the KHL’s most deadly offenses. It wasn’t until the 35th minute that Denis Platonov tied the scores … and then Mozyakin took over. His go-ahead goal followed before the second intermission, and his 1,001st point followed in the final stanza as Metallurg extended its lead on the power play. Mozyakin started the play, Chris Lee’s pass found Zaripov and the forward smashed home his first playoff goal of the season to make it 3-1. Kunlun got one back almost immediately through Oleg Yashin to keep the game alive with just under five minutes to play but, despite generating chances in the closing minutes, the home team could not salvage a much-needed victory from the game and now trails 0-3 in the series.

Game 4 - Kunlun v Metallurg 3-1 - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The defending champion’s hopes of sweeping into the Conference Semi-Finals hit a bump as Kunlun delivered a memorable victory in Beijing. Roared on by a crowd of over 7,000, the KHL newcomer got its first ever post-season win and avoided a white-wash in its inaugural playoff series. Drawing on the kind of determination that put the team into the top eight in the Eastern Conference, Vladimir Yurzinov’s men produced stout resistance on defense and some clinical finishing when chances came at the other end. And, this time, there were no costly lapses in concentration as Red Star held on for the win. The home team struck first, taking the lead in the ninth minute when Martin Bakos found enough space in front of the net to deflect Joonas Jarvinen’s feed beyond Vasily Koshechkin. But Metallurg had far more opportunities in the opening stanza, outshooting the host 13-5 and testing Tomi Karhunen in the Kunlun net.
Those efforts came to naught, and Chad Rau, Kunlun’s leading scorer in the regular season, got his first of the playoffs to make it 2-0 in the 20th minute. Linus Videll launched another marauding raid down the right channels before finding Tuukka Mantyla. The Finn’s defense-splitting pass picked out Rau in the left-hand circle with Koshechkin out of position at the near post. Early in the second period, Tommi Taimi’s power play goal extended Kunlun’s lead and chased Koshechkin from the net. The middle session was more evenly-matched than the first, with Kunlun creating further opportunities to extend its lead, only to be pegged back in the final seconds. Viktor Antipin got the goal, also on a power play, when he deflected Chris Lee’s shot beyond Karhunen. But there was to be no revival this time for Magnitka. The third period was dominated by defense, with Metallurg’s powerful forwards able to manage just eight attempts on Karhunen’s net. The fearsome Mozyakin-Kovar-Zaripov line was limited to a solitary shot as the home team treated Chinese fans to a win to remember.

Game 5 - Metallurg v Kunlun 8-2 - Thursday, March 02, 2017

Danis Zaripov and Jan Kovar both hit hat-tricks as Metallurg’s mighty first line ran riot to settle this series in emphatic fashion. Surprised in China, Magnitka hit back to book a place in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals with a rampant display. For Kunlun, so impressive in Tuesday’s victory, this was a day to forget after a season to remember. For four games of this series, Vladimir Yurzinov’s team had done a good job of restricting the scoring prowess and Zaripov, Kovar and Sergei Mozyakin, but today the floodgates opened. Four power play goals contributed to the seven markers that the deadly trio shared; this time, there was nowhere for Red Star to escape the onslaught. It didn’t take long to get the scoreboard rolling over. Zaripov’s wrister on a sixth-minute power play opened the scoring. Come the 10-minute mark and another penalty saw Kovar get his first of the night. Tommi Taimi hinted at a fightback when he pulled a goal back with a shot from the blue line, but barely 30 seconds later Zaripov reinstated Magnitka’s two-goal cushion. Mozyakin was not going to miss out on his share of the scoring, and added a fourth early in the middle stanza before Kovar got his second to make it 5-1. Zaripov then completed his hat-trick in the 41st minute, converting at the far post after Mozyakin shaped to shoot before threading a pass through a wrong-footed defense. Yaroslav Kosov was the first player from outside that first line to score for Magnitka, touching home a Tomas Filippi shot to make it 7-1, and any remaining headgear found its way onto the ice a minute later as yet another power play enabled Kovar to match Zaripov’s treble. Chris Lee’s assist on that goal took his points tally to five for the game. For a time, it even looked as if Magnitka might threaten Ak Bars’ KHL post-season record victory, an 11-1 success at Avangard in 2009, but in the final 10 minutes the scoring stopped. In the event, Kunlun had the final word: Yaroslav Alshevsky got his first ever playoff goal as Kunlun’s memorable rookie season came to an end.

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