By defeating HC MVD 2-0 Tuesday in an exciting, winner-takes-all Game 7 to win their second title in row, Ak Bars has kept the Kontinental League (KHL) Gagarin Cup in Kazan and maintained their status as the only winners of the KHL’s top prize.
After a scoreless first period featuring mostly measured play, Nikita Alexeyev struck early in the middle frame to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Niko Kapanen then added to Ak Bars lead, beating HC MVD goalie Michael Garnett with less than four minutes to play in the second period for the 2-0 advantage.
Ak Bars hunkered down in the third period, providing few opportunities for HC MVD to get back in the game, much to the dismay of most in the capacity crowd at Balashikha Arena.
“Unlike previous games in Balashikha, we played more confidently and after scoring two goals, didn’t relax, and drove to victory,” said Ak Bars coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov. “I think that the second championship was harder, because throughout the season opponents did not give us an easy time. I liked the taste of champagne after the victory. It was sweeter than last year.”
HC MVD outshot Ak Bars 30-17, but couldn’t solve Kazan goalie Petri Vehanen, who turned in one of his best performances of the Gagarin Cup tournament when it mattered most.
Ak Bars defender and leader Ilya Nikulin was named most valuable player of the Gagarin Cup playoffs.