Ak Bars bounce back with big victory
After the disappointment of losing in overtime to Dinamo Riga in the Prague Hockey Cup opener, Ak Bars Kazan rallied to thrash Salavat Yulaev Ufa 6-1. It was a confident performance by the Tatarstan side, who preyed on Salavat who simply did not look at the races this afternoon at the Tipsport Arena. Konstantin Barulin made 15 saves for the victory.
Penalties: 8:1. PP goals: 1:2. SH goals: 0:0.
Referees: Bulanov, Olenin-Gebauer, Hlavaty . Attendance: 364.
The Salavat ship was slow to sail in the first period, as Ak Bars Kazan took the game to their arch-rivals and blew them out of the water. It was great first shift for Salavat Yulaev, who pinned Ak Bars in their own zone for the first thirty seconds of the game, Konstantin Barulin being forced to make a pair of early saves on Ivan Vishnevsky and Denis Khylstov. The latter would end up taking the first penalty of the game by taking a tripping call, and that was the point from which it all went wrong for Ufa.
With ten seconds left in the man advantage, Ak Bars strung together a stunning passing play to take the lead. Shaun Heshka set up the move at the point, and a tic-tac-toe exchange between Tomáš Vincour, Alexander Svitov and Chris Bourque saw the latter hammer the puck in from the back door with Iiro Tarkki left stranded.
Speaking about the goal, Bourque commented, ‘It was on a power play. Alex [Svitov] made a really nice play on the give-and-go, and that opened up the back door and I just kinda went in there and put it over his glove. It was good to get the first goal of the game.
Ten seconds later and Ak Bars had doubled their lead. Salavat seemed to fall asleep as a broken play at the right point was finished off by Alexander Osipov’s shot which sailed into the top left corner of the goal. It was a soft goal to concede for both team and netminder.
Salavat had their moments in the first period but they were few and far between. A good shift by their second line saw Yegor Dubrovsky and Teemu Hartikainen combine to go close to getting the Bashkortostan club back into the game. However, when Tim Stapleton scored with eight minutes to go in the period, profiting from a beautiful piece of individual skill by Alexander Burmistrov, it was already game over. Burmistrov felled Ilya Zinovyev with a huge hit in the neutral zone in the dying seconds of the first period, which just about summed it up for Salavat.
‘We’d lost the last couple games and really wanted to get the win,’ added Bourque. ‘We were focused on our systems and playing hard and I think we had a really strong game today. It was a good win.’
Ak Bars took their foot off the accelerator in the second period, making for a game which really felt like a pre-season encounter. Salavat had more of the play than they had in the helped by a powerplay opportunity handed to them as Denis Golubev took a holding penalty. Andrei Zubarev rang the pipes with a deflected point shot a minute into the man advantage, just before Teemu Hartikainen buried a second chance effort after good play by Dmitri Makarov on the left wing.
Kazan were still getting chances though. Dmitri Obukhov blazed wide from the left wing, while with five and a half minutes to play in the middle frame, Mikhail Varnakov took a stretch pass to gain a breakaway opportunity. However, the Ak Bars forward shot high and wide when looking for the top corner. Ak Bars were unable to convert on a late powerplay chance with Glukhov in the box, Varnakov going closest with a shot from the point.
Salavat’s anaemic offence had only managed to muster ten shots through the first two periods, leaving Barulin with relatively little to do. This went unchanged in the third period, as Ak Bars scored four and a half minutes into the third period to seal the three points. Yevgeni Medvedev fired a rocket of a slapshot as he gained the zone on the left wing, the puck flying into the top corner.
Ufa went close to clawing the deficit back to two in the first ten minutes of the third period. The top line, centred by Ilya Zinovyev, was able to generate some good zone time, while the second unit centred by Dmitri Makarov nearly found the back of the net although Ilya Nikulin did well to tie up Hartakainen to prevent the Finn from burying Yegor Dubrovsky’s cross crease pass seven minutes in.
A double minor high sticking penalty against captain Vitali Proshkin killed any momentum that Salavat were generating, as Kirill Petrov scored with thirty seconds left on the first penalty, jamming the puck in from the near post. With 82 seconds left in the game, Dmtiri Obukhov added salt to the wound by banging in Ak Bars’ sixth goal of the game.
Thanks to their bumper first period, Ak Bars were able to see off their rivals comfortably in what is colloquially known as the ‘Green Derby’. Kazan now moves to the top of the table with four points, while Salavat’s hopes of reaching the Prague Hockey Cup final have been dashed.