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Dynamo downs CSKA, SKA startled by Severstal. Western semifinals, Day 1

07.03.2013

 The opening games of the Western Conference semi-final sprang a few surprises. Dynamo enjoyed a more comfortable victory at CSKA than had been expected, easing to a 3-0 success against its Moscow rival. Meanwhile in St. Petersburg, SKA was pushed all the way by underdog Severstal, before Viktor Tikhonov completed his hat-trick to settle the first game of the series.

Clinical Dynamo seizes early initiative
(2) CSKA Moscow 0
(3) Dynamo Moscow 3
Dynamo leads the series 1-0

A first-period blitz put Dynamo in early control of its local derby with CSKA as the Blue-and-Whites raced into a 3-0 lead despite a sluggish start to the game. The early stages had narrowly favored the home side, with CSKA enjoying the bulk of the possession while Dynamo’s counter-attacking game lacked its customary precision. But after the first ad break all the changed in seconds. A face-off at the Dynamo end broke kindly for Alexei Sopin to race the length of the ice, hold off a desperate lunge from Denis Denisov and tuck it upstairs to Rostislav Stana’s left. Two minutes later, a similar counter saw Sergei Soin pick out Konstantin Kasyanchuk to make it 2-0. On 16:21 a miserable start for CSKA was compounded when Alexander Radulov gave up cheap possession on his own blue line and Konstantin Gorovikov scored off the post.

A scoreless second session was largely dominated by the hosts, but there was no way past Alexander Yeryomenko. At times CSKA’s problems were self-inflicted, with Alexander Radulov more than once easing the pressure on Dynamo with misplaced passes which cleared the end zone; on other occasions it seemed that fate alone was denying the Army Men a way back into the game. Radulov again, charging in on goal and causing chaos in a short-handed Dynamo defense, only to be thwarted by the unexpected footballing skills of the stickless Dmitry Pestunov, Nikolai Prokhorkin rattling Yeryomenko’s bar with a wrist shot from mid-range.

When the sides met in regular season action, back in December, Dynamo went into the final stanza with a 5-0 lead, only to be pegged back to 5-4 before an empty netter settled matters. But any hopes of a repeat recovery from CSKA quickly faded as the third period here developed along similar lines to the second. Dynamo, enjoying its comfortable cushion, was content to soak up possession and worked hard at keeping CSKA at arm’s length while ensuring the puck stayed live and the clock steadily ran down. And on this occasion, even on its sole powerplay, there was to be no way through for the Red-and-Blues. Yeryomenko had a 21-save shut-out as Dynamo took a big psychological boost from the series opener.

Tikhonov treble sparks SKA late show
(1) SKA St. Petersburg 7
(5) Severstal Cherepovets 4
SKA leads the series 1-0

A hat-trick from Viktor Tikhonov – the second, decisive one coming in the 54 th minute – gave SKA the early initiative in its Conference semi-final. But the red-hot pre-game favorite knew it had been in a real battle after edging home by the odd goal in nine. Tikhonov’s winner typified his team’s struggles, forcing the puck home at the second attempt after Vasily Koshechkin beat away his first effort. Maxim Afinogenov and Tikhonov himself added empty-netters to put some gloss on the final scoreline, but this was an uncomfortably close call for SKA, despite the seemingly comfortable final margin.

Earlier the first period threatened to turn into a procession for SKA, which had fired in 11 unanswered shots on Koshechkin’s goal before Mikhail Varnakov finally opened the scoring on the powerplay following Denis Kazionov’s expulsion. But once ahead, the home side’s intensity dropped and after some fairly aimless play Severstal stunned the hosts by drawing level through Nikita Alexeyev in the final minute of the session. Blushes were swiftly spared, though, as Tony Martensson picked out Tikhonov bearing down on goal, and his shot found the top corner.

Initially it seemed that the second period would see SKA press home that advantage, with Patrick Thoresen extending the lead on the powerplay. But play-off specialist Mikhail Anisin cut the gap before two quick-fire goals from Evgeny Ketov gave Severstal an unexpected lead. In barely 11 minutes of hockey Severstal had scored four times – matching the tally Atlant had managed in five games of its quarter-final series with SKA. And, for the first time post-season, the Petersburg side trailed in front of its own fans. Martensson tied it up again at 4-4, pouncing on a rebound in the 36 th minute, and two unanswered goals in the third saw SKA safely – if nervously – over the line.

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