MOSCOW, February 27 (R-Sport) - Ak Bars Kazan has become the third KHL team to reach the last eight after completing a 4-0 series win over Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk in the first round of the playoffs.
A double-overtime strike from Lauris Darzins gave two-time KHL champion Ak Bars a 3-2 win at Neftekhimik on Tuesday to reach the Eastern Conference semifinals after a passionate derby series against its neighboring team in the region of Tatarstan.
Ak Bars had been favorites to progress after topping the Eastern table in the regular season. For Neftekhimik the defeat extends its record of losing in the first round on each of the four occasions the team has made the playoffs.
Game four in Nizhnekamsk saw Ak Bars take the lead twice only for Neftekhimik to level with thunderous shots from defensemen.
First Ak Bars forward Alexei Morozov scored with a finish from a tight angle off a Niko Kapanen pass across the crease early in the second period, before Vitaly Shulakov quickly responded with a goal for the hosts to make it 1-1.
Slack defending allowed Janne Pesonen to score on the breakaway on 36:44, before Petr Koukal’s strike from out wide equalized again for Neftekhimik.
Both teams had excellent chances to win the game at the end of the third period and in the first period of overtime, which saw 27 shots, but the deadlock remained until Darzins speared in the rebound from his Ak Bars teammate Kirill Petrov’s shot to give his team the series win.
In all, the game saw 101 shots, 56 of them from Neftekhimik and 45 from Ak Bars.
The series is the only one in the Eastern Conference to reach a conclusion so far.
The others are all locked at 2-2 ahead of resumption Friday, with Avangard Omsk playing Sibir Novosibirsk, Traktor Chelyabinsk playing Barys Astana and Metallurg Magnitogorsk facing Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
In the West, Dynamo Moscow and CSKA Moscow have both reached the conference semifinals, and Thursday will see SKA St. Petersburg attempt to close a series it leads 3-1 against Atlant Moscow Region, and Severstal Cherepovets, leading 3-1, attempt to complete an upset against Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.