Evgeny Kuznetsov faces pressure on and off the ice. (Photo credit: Vitaly Gubin / HC Traktor)
Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov continues his KHL playoff run. After a tough 4-3 series win over Barys Astana in the first round of the playoffs, Traktor dethroned Eastern Conference champions Avangard Omsk in five games.
Goalie Michael Garnett stole the show in the series, shutting out Avangard in all four victories. He allowed three goals – all in the fourth game of the series won by Avangard (3-1). He was perfect in the other four (5-0, 3-0, 3-0, 4-0). To celebrate the stellar play of their goalie, Traktor fans painted a banner: a brick wall with “MICHAEL” written over it.
Unlike Garnett, Kuznetsov wasn’t crucial to Traktor’s series triumph. The young right wing put up three points (two goals and an assist) in the series, giving him five through 12 postseason games this year.
In the final game of the series, Kuznetsov sealed victory with an empty-net goal 1:04 before the final buzzer.
His goal is at the 5:34 mark.
Now, Kuznetsov will try to right the ship in the Eastern Conference finals, where they will face the winner of the “Green Rivalry” – one of the most heated rivalries in the KHL featuring Eastern powerhouses Ak Bars Kazan and Salavat Yulaev Ufa — teams that combined for three of the first four Gagarin Cup titles. Last year’s winner, Dynamo Moscow, will play SKA St. Petersburg in a re-match of last season’s Western Conference finals. So three of the of four teams that played in the conference finals last year (Traktor, Dynamo and SKA) have made it that far again this year.