On March 8, Ak Bars won the club's 843rd KHL match: Kazan got the better of HC Neftekhimik 1:0 on the road, won the series in four games and entered the semifinals of the East.
Both teams traditionally managed a dynamic start of the match, the first scoring opportunity was created by the Kazan team − Artyom Galimov sniped from the far slot, the puck went wide. Matt White of Neftekhimik played powerfully: the forward ragged successfully – the American player hit a backhander, Timur Bilyalov coped. It was White who opened the scoring in the middle of the period, but the puck was waved off: Zach Mitchell was on the goal mouth and knocked out Bilyalov's stick, the referees counted a goalie interference. Marat Khairullin and Timur Hafizov also made their shots, which turned out to be wide of goal. Pavel Poryadin created a very sharp momentum– the Neftekhimik forward swung the defenseman and took a shot, the goaltender coped again. In the counterattack on 3 on 2, the first Kazan line rushed: Justin Azevedo set up Patrice Cormier, while Konstantin Barulin played strong. In the end, Rafael Bikmullin played roughly against Mikhail Fisenko and took a penalty – the visitors’ power play turned out to be dangerous, but goalless.
Ak Bars owned the game in the beginning of the second period: Azevedo redirected Mikael Wikstrand’s shot, Kirill Petrov twice tried to tap in − Barulin saved the team. Neftekhimik responded with a breakaway of Poryadin: Bilyalov froze the puck after his shot, and White was blocked by the defensemen. Kazan opened the scoring after a laser shot by Stanislav Galiyev − the forward hit the top corner. The home team got a chance to win back after the penalty of Fisenko, but almost conceded: Azevedo and Dmitry Yudin rushed 2 on 1, but failed to score. Galiyev could have scored twice on even strength, Artyom Galimov and Azevedo sprang him for a shot -it was pretty dangerous. The home team responded with a breakaway of Khairullin, though Bilyalov flashed his glove.
In the third frame, Artyom Galimov created a great chance – he knocked the puck between two defensemen, but the forward was blocked to take a shot. Viktor Tikhonov had another momentum: Nikita Dynyak’s pass was great, however there was no time and space for a shot. Bilyalov has been slightly injured, and luckily Kazan didn't have to replace the goaltender. Neftekhimik got the power play when Andrei Pedan was whistled, but failed to capitalize on the man-advantage – 0 shots on goal for 2 minutes. The home team tried forechecking and pressured: shots from the blue, traffic on the slot, the puck passed extremely close to the goal of Bilyalov. In counterattacks, Fisenko and Tikhonov had a chance to extend the lead of Ak Bars − the first shot from an unobvious position, and the second-from a goal crease: Barulin coped! Neftekhimik pulled the goalie for an extra attacker ninety seconds before the end, but failed to score: Ak Bars emerged victorious 1:0 and entered the next round.
Ak Bars will open the semifinals of the conference on March 18 in Kazan, the opponent for the second round of the playoffs to be determined later.
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Artyom Galimov was named the best newcomer of the season in the KHL18 May 2020 18 0
Timur Bilyalov − the best goaltender of the season in the KHL18 May 2020 13 0
Mikhail Fisenko has extended his contract with Ak Bars12 May 2020 13 0
Danis Zaripov has extended his contract with Ak Bars12 May 2020 16 0
Andrey Pedan signed a new contract with Ak Bars12 May 2020 15 0
Kirill Petrov remains in Ak Bars12 May 2020 14 0