|2008 Super League|
Semen Varlamov standing guard for HC Lokomotiv (Photo Courtesy of Yana Strauss)
First round goes to Lokomotiv
With three punches in the first two periods, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl downed Salavat Yulajev Ufa in the first game of the 2008 RSL finals. Great performance by Heikkila’s team, that didn’t leave any space for their opponents, exploiting all the chances they got. Salavat Yulajev will have tons to do to prepare for the next challenge, since they were never in control of the match. “We have created a lot of chances in attack, and also we haven't allowed the opponents to create anything in front of our crease” – said Loko’s Finn coach to Sport-express magazine.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl scored the first goal of the match after only two minutes and half: Ivan Nepriayev (Washington Capitals) behind the crease gave a beautiful pass to Czech Irgl, who didn’t fail on the shot from a scoring position, three meters in front of the crease, slightly on the right. The home team couldn’t organize the attack as they suffered a lot from Lokomotiv’s deep forecheck, and they required seven minutes to build the first scoring chances, but Nurtdinov couldn’t hook Alexei Tereschenko (Dallas Stars)’s nice pass, all alone in front of Semen Varlamov (Washington Capitals). After that, the white – green had their share of opportunities, wasted by Andrei Taratukhin (Calgary Flames) and Igor Volkov (New York Islanders), but in the end of the first period Eremenko avoided to go down by two goals with a great save on Irgl.
But what was avoided in the last few seconds of the first period, becomes reality in the first ones of the second: Zhukov launches Nepryaev on the left side, and the 2006-olympian with a beautiful slapshot puts the puck in the top right corner. The guests are on fire, Alexander Eremenko risks to capitulate again when first Ivan Tkachenko (Columbus Blue Jackets) and then Konkov gets in the slot to face him. Only once Salavat Yulajev put anxiety on the opponents’ defense: four minutes in the second period Alexander Perezhogin (Montreal Canadiens) serves from the left side the rushing Igor Schadilov (Washington Capitals), but a tremendous pad-save by Varlamov denied them the opportunity to get back on track. “I dont think I'm the game’s hero” – said Varlamov after the contest where he collected his fourth shutout of the playoffs with a 27-saves performances. “The whole team did what the coach told to do, we played safely in our own third, right the way we needed to play against an opponent like Salavat”. This was the best period for the home team, though they struggled to build dangerous actions and also wasted a double powerplay midway through the game. When the second period is about to become history, Lokomotiv stretches the advantage: after a good counterattack, Alexei Mikhnov (Edmonton Oilers) gets in the slot and shots. Eremenko saves, but Captain Kudashov, still on the ice after being hit in the scramble, manages to collect the rebound and deflect it in.
In the third period Salavat Yulajev attacks head down, but the music doesn’t change. After nine minutes Proshkin is sent to the penalty-box for elbowing and youngster Alexander Vasyunov (New Jersey Devils) has the 4-0 on the stick, but he put the puck out of the crease after skating past Eremenko. The game thus ended with a “deserved victory” by Lokomotiv, using the words of Mikhalev (Salavat Yulajev’s head coach). Lokomotiv’s forward Aleksey Mikhnov added: “The main aim for us was to not let them score in the first two minutes and to pay attention at our slot, without letting them play the rebounds. We had the same tactic against Metallurg and it gave us the success”.
Game two will be played Monday April 7th, in Ufa, at 19.00 Moscow Time.