If only all Gagarin Cup Finals were this good.
In game three, the underdog Lev Prague, the first non-Russian team to make it this deep, led 2-1 against powerhouse Metallurg Magnitogorsk, coached by Mike Keenan, late in the third period in front of home crowd of 16,435 spectators, the all-time KHL attendance record. That crowd got quite a show.
With the faceoff near the Lev blue line, Magnitka pulled the goalie for an extra attacker. They won the draw and set up in the offensive zone. A shot by KHL star Sergei Mozyakin was blocked, but the puck hopped right to the stick of an ex-Grand Rapids Griffin Francis Pare who put it past Lev’s Petri Vehanen. Tie game.
Overtime coming? Not so fast. Lev had other plans.
With 40 seconds left, Lev started the breakout from their zone. Metallurg took the puck away on the defensive blue line, but a stretch pass by defenseman Yaroslav Khabarov was picked off. Mikko Maenpaa rushed the puck to the zone and threw it to the empty area. What happened next is stuff of the legend.
Justin Azevedo blew past Khabarov, lost his balance, dove, and shot the puck to the top corner of the net as he was falling. Orr-esque.
Hugging Azevedo first is ex-Cap Jiri Novotny. Small world.
The fan reaction is amazing.
With the win, Lev took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven final series.
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