(8) Lokomotiv 1
(2) SKA 6
Series tied at 2-2
Going into game four SKA faced big questions. When would some of its big names get on the score sheet? When would the team start dispatching power play opportunities consistently? Was Jukka Jalonen’s roster really ready to step up to the challenge of battling through to its first ever Gagarin Cup final? At least some of those questions were emphatically answered in Yaroslavl.
On the power play, for example, SKA converted three of its six opportunities – just a day after Loko’s head coach Dave King singled out the work of Dmitry Yushkevich in preparing the team’s penalty kill. Tonight, though, SKA scored on its first two power plays. Tony Martensson continued his line’s impressive form in the 16th minute to make it 2-0 as Mikhail Pashnin sat it out, then late in the second Viktor Tikhonov found a way inside the near post from the face-off spot following Staffan Kronwall’s indiscretion. That stretched SKA’s advantage to 5-1 and saw Curtis Sanford replaced during the second intermission. It was also a welcome return to the score sheet for Tikhonov, whose solitary marker prior to this game was one of the major concerns about the Petersburg team’s play.
Vadim Shipachyov was another player accused of going missing in the play-offs, and he ended his goal drought at last with the third on the night, while Ilya Kovalchuk was awarded his team’s sixth by the video judge on a last minute power play. That takes Kovi to two goals in this series and adds to the feeling that his new line might just suit him better.
As for Loko, this was a night which started badly and never really recovered. The team lost a poor opening goal, giving up possession in its own zone too easily to enable Anton Malyshev to flip a wrist shot into the net from some distance while Sanford was heavily screened. Yegor Yakovlev did hit the target for the home team, reducing the deficit to 1-3 in the middle of the second, but Alexander Barabanov hit back for SKA within 30 seconds. King’s task now is to ensure that the momentum of the series does swing back behind SKA; Jalonen will be hoping that the answers he team provided tonight are not just one-offs.
(4) Donbass 2
(3) Lev 0
Series tied at 2-2
It’s all square in the west’s other series as well after Donbass eased to victory over Lev in Bratislava. The Ukrainian team responded well after yesterday’s overtime defeat, even though it was tough going at times – especially in the early stages.
For much of the first period Lev had the edge. The Czechs outshot Donbass 14-6, helped by an extended 5v3 power play, but couldn’t score on Jan Laco. By contrast Donbass worked a patient build-up for Lukas Kaspar to push the puck back into the deep slot for Oscars Bartulis to shoot home the opening goal in the 17th minute.
In the second session things were more even – and it was Donbass which added to the scoring. Evgeny Belukhin has played a big role in this series, and he played a crucial part in setting up Alexander Toryanik to score at the near post after his team-mate’s dart around the back.
Despite a two-goal cushion there was a scare on the way for the nomthinal home team. Lev’s Justin Azevedo pulled a goal back in the 56 minute, raising the specter of these teams playing yet another round of overtime. This series has produced five additional periods so far, but an empty net goal for Evgeny Dadonov with 35 seconds to play ensured that the result would be settled in regulation time.