Danis Zaripov (R) and Sergei Mozyakin (L) hoist the Gagarin Cup (Dmitry Golubovich/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Metallurg Magnitogorsk has captured the KHL’s Gagarin Cup for the second time in the past three seasons after downing CSKA Moscow in a back-and-forth, seven-game final.
Throughout the series, it appeared neither team would be able to get or hold an edge. After picking up Game 1, CSKA dropped Game 2 and the two sides traded wins until Games 4 and 5 of the series, which marked the only time in the seven-game set either team won back-to-back games. Three times in the final Magnitogorsk and Moscow went to overtime, and only Game 1 and Game 7 were decided by more than one goal.
In the final game, it was 35-year-old blueliner Chris Lee who was the hero. With seven minutes remaining in the first frame, Lee spotted a streaking Evgeny Timkin and connected with a perfect stretch pass that led to the game’s opening goal and, after CSKA tied the contest in the second frame, it was Lee who scored the game- and Cup-winning goal on a shot from the slot that found its way through traffic and past Moscow goaltender Ilya Sorokin.
Though he didn’t find the score sheet in Game 7, the playoff MVP went to Sergei Mozyakin, who netted 11 goals and 25 points in 22 playoff game for Magnitogorsk. He and Jan Kovar, who had eight goals and 22 points, were 1-2 in post-season scoring, and Metallurg had four players finish among the top seven in scoring. That includes Alexander Semin.
Semin, who was cast off from the Montreal Canadiens earlier in the year, finished his KHL campaign with five goals and 14 points in 20 games for Magnitogorsk before adding another seven goals and 15 points in 22 post-season games. Semin didn’t make much of an impact in the final, however, notching just one assist in seven games. Former NHLer Wojtek Wolski was also part of the championship-winning side, as was Washington Capitals goaltending prospect Ilya Samsonov.
The championship ending to the season for Magnitogorsk is almost unbelievable considering the team went through a bizarre situation when coach Mike Keenan was let go mid-season following back-to-back losses. Firing a coach after losing games isn’t surprising, but what made the situation befuddling is it was Magnitogorsk was still among the Eastern Conference leaders at the time of Keenan’s firing.
With the victory, Magnitogorsk joins Ak Bars Kazan and Dynamo Moscow as the three teams with two Gagarin Cups since the KHL’s inception.