Moscow, Lisbon get past Minsk, Athens

The conference finals matchups are set after two tense series ended with Game 7 wins for the road teams. Both Moscow and Lisbon entered the playoffs as 6th seeds.

Moscow upset the defending champion Hussars in seven games. Minsk won the first two games of the series in convincing fashion before Moscow evened the series in Russia. Then in Game 5, the Dynamo shocked everyone with a 5-2 win in Minsk with Ryan Suter assisting on three goals and goalie Alexander Salak stopping 37 of 39 Minsk shots. That set up the possible series-winning game on home ice, but Minsk emerged with the win, 4-2, in a penalty-filled contest in which Minsk’s powerplay generated three goals. Then on Sunday, it was a deciding Game 7 in front of 16,570 Minsk fans. Gustav Nyquist scored very early in the game for the home team and the 1-0 lead held up as the third period began. Minsk was outshooting Moscow 27-15 by that time, but the Hussars’ big line of Patrick Kane, Milan Lucic and Nicklas Backstrom was being held in check. Then Moscow tied it on a screened shot by Duncan Keith that got past Carey Price. Salak was rock solid in the Moscow net and he stopped all 16 Minsk shots in that period and the game seemed destined for overtime when disaster struck for Minsk – elation for the Dynamo. Keith kept a puck from leaving the Minsk zone and he chopped along the right boards where Kyle Palmieri raced over to it and then slid a hard pass toward the front of the goal. Moscow captain David Backes barged around Kris Russell and was able to slap it over Price’s left shoulder with just 23 seconds left.

Moscow will move on to play the Belfast Giants in the Northern Conference finals. The teams played each other four times in the regular season with Belfast winning by a goal three times and Moscow winning the other game by two goals. Chris Stewart of Moscow is injured and Gerhard Unterluggauer is banged up, while Belfast has a hurt Mikko Lehtonen to worry about.

Athens played most of the playoffs without Niklas Kronwall and two other Greek defensemen – Alex Goligoski and Mark Giordano – missed time as well. But the Greeks battled every inch of the way, conquering powerful Paris in seven games and then taking Lisbon to seven in their series. A Jason Pominville goal in the second period of Game 5 stood up as the winner and it put Lisbon on the brink of elimination for two games in a row. The Portuguese prevailed in Game 6 at home, winning 4-2 and that forced a Game 7 in Greece. That game was just about dead even in shots on goal and penalties. Goaltending wasn’t great for either team. John Tavares scored first for Lisbon, but Loui Eriksson and Thomas Kuhnhackl gave the home team the lead nearly halfway through regulation. Then Tavares tallied again, his 7th goal of the playoffs, and Marian Hossa scored his first and Lisbon led. with a period to go. In the third period, the place went bonkers as the hometown Greeks got an Anze Kopitar shorthanded goal with 9:24 left and then Bobby Butler scored to give Athens a lead with 4:24 remaining. But just 26 seconds later, Lisbon regained momentum with a Ryan Kesler goal to tie the game again. The series-winning goal came in the final minute of regulation and the man who has scored more points (760) and more goals (304) than anyone else in EURO history did the honors. Tavares, to Matt Moulson, to Steven Stamkos and it was goal number 10 of the playoffs for Stamkos.

Lisbon will play Bratislava in the Southern Conference finals. Neither team has made it this far before. The teams were 2-2 against each other this season and oddly enough the away team won each time.

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