It was supposed to be the day Dynamo retained the Gagarin Cup in front of its own fans at Moscow’s Luzhniki Arena, but no one on the visiting team read that script. A first period blitz from Traktor Chelyabinsk saw three goals fly into the home team’s net, leaving the crowd almost silent and the players shell-shocked. Then, after a similarly dramatic comeback in the second period saw Dynamo tie the game 3-3, Andrei Kostitsyn stepped up to score his first goal of the series and bring the final back to Chelyabinsk on Wednesday, with Dynamo leading 3 games to 2.
The goal was worthy of winning any game – as Kostitsyn forced his way in front of the net before firing his shot past Alexander Yeryomenko – and it adds to his earlier series-deciding winner against Ak Bars. Kostitsyn may not be the most prolific player in this post-season, but his goals are certainly among the most important.
While Dynamo might reflect on a valiant recovery that ultimately fell agonizingly short – no more so than when Dominik Granak hit the crossbar in the final minute –Traktor will surely feel it earned this win with a first period storm that saw the visitors go up 3-0 inside 10 minutes. It all started in the fourth minute when Roman Derlyuk’s errant shot was gathered by Jan Bulis. Bulis then connected with Stanislav Chistov, who skated in from the blueline unchallenged to score on Yeryomenko. Derlyuk then almost suffered a repeat of that blunder when Valery Nichushkin – playing his last game of this series before joining up with Russia’s under-18 World Championship squad – mugged him on the blueline, only to fire wide.
But the reprieve was brief: within a minute Anton Glinkin clinically converted Nikita Nesterov’s pass after the defenseman had led a swift break from Traktor’s zone to Dynamo’s red line. Dynamo went into the first commercial timeout to the sound of the PA announcer urging the stunned fans to reignite their support for the beleaguered team. But, seconds after the break, a needlessly conceded face-off in Dynamo’s own zone saw Yegor Dugin claim possession and set up Vladimir Antipov to make it 3-0 with a wrist shot into the far corner.
Dynamo began the second period needing a swift – some might say miraculous – response, and it got the perfect opportunity with its first power play at 26:33. Up to this point, the Moscow team had struggled to take advantage of penalties in these playoffs, but in this instance Marek Kvapil came up with the answer, racing down the left side and choosing to shoot early, smashing the puck past Michael Garnett and into the far corner. Those tentative shots of hope were nurtured within a minute with Ilya Gorokhov’s blue-liner forced in by Jakub Petruzalek,, battling away in the slot. And optimism was in full bloom in the 35th minute as another break down the left side saw Sergei Soin tie the game at 3-3 – completing an incredible turnaround.
Traktor, though, continued to create chances. Petri Kontiola had already come close to scoring his first goal of the final series, and after Andrei Mironov was penalized for interference Dynamo faced a nervous two minutes with Traktor pressing hard on the power play. Tensions threatened to spill over as Janne Jalasvaara and Maxim Yakutsenya squared up in the slot, but the home team closed out the second period at 3-3, only for Kostitsyn’s killer blow to settle matters deep into the third.
The Gagarin Cup final continues Wednesday when Traktor hosts Dynamo for Game 6.