So close and yet so far...
Defending champions Ak Bars Kazan saw their repeat title hopes slip through their fingers today as Metallurg Magnitogorsk claimed a narrow 2-1 victory in the deciding Game Five to win the Superleague championship. Dimitri Kazionov, in what may have been his final game in Russia before coming to North America to play in the Lightning organization, was scoreless in the match.
Kazionov finished the playoffs with 2 goals and 4 points in 13 games and 4 penalty minutes and a +1 rating.
MODO knocked off Linkopings 2-1 in Game Five to take a 3-2 lead in their best of seven Elitserien finals series. Lightning prospect defenseman Andreas Holmqvist had 2 penalty minutes in the game. With their backs squarely against the wall, Linkopings heads into Game Six which is scheduled for Saturday.
With any kind of goaltending, the Lightning would've won this game 3-1.
Johan Holmqvist was awful in Game One. Awful. 5 goals on 24 shots in the loss and 3 of those were soft goals and the final goal of the game came on a terrible decision to move the puck rather than freezing it after he originally put his glove down on the biscuit on the play. Where do you go from here in net? Holmer's confidence might be 100% shattered right now. Denis has been publicly told to get lost, for all intents and purposes. And, while I have confidence in Karri Ramo and his abilities, he hasn't started a hockey game in close to a month and he's never started a game at the NHL level.
And the frustrating thing is the other 18 guys on the rink tonight for the Lightning definitely played well enough to win. They were the better team on balance. Vincent Lecavalier got loose for 2 goals. Martin St. Louis had 1 goal and 1 assist. Brad Richards, Dan Boyle and Vaclav Prospal all had assists. All the big guns, for the most part, got theirs and the Lightning also got particularly strong games from Jason Ward and Nick Tarnasky. Perhaps that's the silver lining: if the Lightning can find someone, ANYONE, who won't allow goals to go through them (the Devils' first goal), or to beat them on unscreened wristers from the side boards around the top of the circles (the Devils' second goal), or to get beaten on an emotionally deflating short side goal just moments after getting the game tied (the Devils fourth goal), then they should be able to handle New Jersey in this series.
On paper, the Lightning's goaltending situation is so much improved over last season, and yet there was something terribly Grahame-esque vs. Ottawa about Holmer tonight. Games Two and Three will be interesting.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Everett 3 @ Prince George 4 (Overtime)
Best-of-7 series tied 2-2
The Prince George Cougars got an overtime goal from Nicolas Drazenovic (St. Louis Blues) to beat the top-seeded Everett Silvertips 4-3 and tie their series at 2. Down 2 games to 0 heading back to Prince George, the Cougars won both home games and not the series goes back to Everett for Game 5 on Saturday. Both Vladimir Mihalik (Prince George) and Dane Crowley (Everett) were scoreless and minus-1. Crowley had a minor penalty for tripping in the third period.
Kazan struck even in their Superleague final series by knocking off Magnitogorsk 4-3 on Game Four. Dimtri Kazionov was scoreless in the match. Kazan's win sets up a decisive Game Five matchup on Friday.