Seven points for Metallurg’s first line – four of them assists by the magnificent Sergei Moyzakin – lifted the Eastern Conference champion to a Kontinental League Gagarin Cup final-squaring 5-3 victory over Lev in Game 4 in Prague.
Mozyakin, whose personal playoff tally now stands at nine goals and 28 points had a hand in all the key Game 4 moments while Danis Zaripov and defenseman Viktor Antipin scored two each to lead Magnitka to victory.
Zaripov’s goal early in the third period finally turned this roller-coaster of a game in Metallurg’s favor – with a rare defensive lapse from Lev contributing to the Czech team’s downfall. Mozyakin, as usual, was heavily involved, dancing through the home defense with alarming ease before poor positioning by goalie Petri Vehanen and defenseman Mikko Maenpaa presented Zaripov with an empty net to make it 4-3.
It soon got worse for the home team, with Magnitka earning a 4-on-3 power play and converting the opportunity within 30 seconds. The Mozyakin-Zaripov pairing did the damage again.
Although there were still 15 minutes to play, the first two-goal advantage of the evening always looked likely to be decisive. Lev dominated the closing stages – Zaripov’s two goals represented two-thirds of his team’s shots in the final period – and earned three power plays. But as the clock ran down the pressure intensified and errors crept in to the home team’s passing. Apart from a Martin Thornberg shot that rebounded to safety off the inside of the post, Metallurg held its advantage fairly comfortably.
Frustrations boiled over in the final seconds resulting in a fight between the home team’s Ryan O’Byrne and the visiting Oskar Osala after the horn.
The game set another KHL attendance record, breaking the 17,000 barrier for the first time. 17,073 came to Prague’s O2 Arena, a few hundred more than the 16,435 who saw Tuesday’s game. With the teams already sure to return for a potentially decisive Game 6 on Monday, this record might also prove to be short-lived. Before that, though, Saturday sees the teams back in action in Magnitogorsk in front of a smaller, but no less fervent crowd.
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