(1) Dynamo 1
(8) Lokomotiv 0 (2OT)
Dynamo leads the series 3-2
Dynamo Moscow’s Luzhniki Arena has seen more than a few big nights of play-off hockey in recent seasons – but until now the house full signs weren’t needed in the first round.
The Blue-and-Whites began their two Gagarin Cup-winning campaigns with 4-0 sweeps, but this season’s starter against Lokomotiv has delivered a far more challenging and absorbing clash. As such, with the series poised at 2-2, game five became one of the hottest tickets in town.
Hot tickets don’t guarantee hot shots, however, and it took more than 80 minutes for the first and only goal to arrive. Konstantin Volkov finally broke the deadlock, collecting a pass from Yury Babenko and roofing his wrist shot to finally end Curtis Sanford’s resistance on 83:11.
If Lokomotiv’s Sanford had been the busier goalie, with 30 saves in regulation and more to do in overtime, Dynamo’s Alexander Yeryomenko also had a few big moments. And none were bigger than a stick save low to his right from a Yegor Yakovlev slapshot in the 75th minute which kept the scoresheet blank as the teams went into double overtime for the second game in a row.
Earlier the game had simmered without ever quite boiling up into a classic encounter. A blustery first period compensated for a lack of clear scoring chances with plenty of hard hitting to keep the officials busy and the crowd enlivened.
If Dynamo had a slight edge in that first session, the second belonged to the visitors. After an early assault on Curtis Sanford’s goal Sergei Plotnikov launched the first counter-offensive, cutting a swathe through Dynamo’s defense only to lose control of the puck in front of the net.
Moments later the first of three penalties called on the home side tipped the momentum decisively in Loko’s favor. As the pressure built, Alexander Chernikov flashed a shot narrowly wide from Igor Musatov’s pass into the center. Then the same player intercepted a weak clearance on the blue line and dragged his effort just wide before another power play saw Mikelis Redlihs go close on a dangerous rebound.
Dynamo could do little more than try to block up center ice and slow the game down, even when back at equal strength, and Loko continued to create the more incisive moves. Daniil Apalkov almost found a winning combination with Plotnikov on the near post, but Yeryomenko held on to keep the game scoreless at the second interval.
However the defining element of the game from the moment the puck was dropped had been tension, and as the third stanza unfolded it was clear that the players were increasingly drained. Neither side could generate much speed in center ice, passes frequently and uncharacteristically went astray on the transition from defense to offense and such shooting chances as came tended to be snatched and hurried.
Error followed error: A Lokomotiv power play was marked by frequent blunders on the edge of the zone; at the other end a stumble by Mikhail Pashnin was reprieved as Dynamo’s forward strayed offside. Plotnikov had a shooting chance as overtime beckoned, but the youngster fired into the Perspex before Denis Kokarev danced around the back and set up Babenko to shoot just wide. There was one final chance as Leo Komarov almost forced his way to the net with just 10 seconds left, but Sanford once again had the answers and the game went to overtime.
(4) Donbass Donetsk 1
(5) Dinamo Riga 2
Donbass leads the series 3-2
This series is heading back to Latvia after Dinamo Riga grabbed a 2-1 victory to keep its hopes of progress alive.
Dinamo, knowing there was no more margin for error in the series made the stronger start, opening up a 2-0 lead. Gints Meija, the Latvians’ top scorer in the series, got his third goal in three games to open the scoring on the power play as he swept a backhand inside the post after 17 minutes.
A Lauris Darzins one-timer early in the second extended that lead, but a power play goal deep in the second gave Donbass a lifeline. Tuomas Kiiskinen claimed his second goal in two games after a crowd scene around the Dinamo goal to set up an intense final session.
Donbass poured forward, out-shooting Dinamo 11-4, but could find no way past Jakub Sedlacek. The visitors close the gap to 2-3, and now hope to level the series in Riga on Saturday.