(8) Lokomotiv 2
(2) SKA 0
Lokomotiv wins the series 4-2
Lokomotiv advances to the Western Conference final, taking a 2-0 verdict in game six of its series with SKA to end the Petersburg team’s hopes for another season. After despatching the defending champion in round one, the Yaroslavl team adds another notable scalp – belying its eighth seeding in the West.
Two goals in the final period of a tense game ultimately did enough to send Lokomotiv through. First Yury Petrov found the net in the 44th minute with a one-timer that flashed up from the deep slot and ripped into the top corner.
In the 51st minute Vitaly Vishnevsky doubled the advantage with a well-taken goal. The young defenseman picked up the loose puck just inside the SKA zone, advanced on the net and showed sufficient composure to force Alexander Salak to commit himself before calmly skating around him to score into an empty net.
As SKA chased the game, Curtis Sanford finally found himself drawn into the action more and more, but his 26 saves brought his second shut-out of the play-offs and secured his team’s progress.
SKA came into the game knowing that only victory would maintain its hopes of glory this season, but began the evening in oddly passive form. During the first period the visitor forced just one save out of Sanford, and it wasn’t until the midway point that SKA’s offense really moved into gear. By that time Salak had already done well to deny Sergei Konkov, Mikelis Redlihs and Janis Sprukts from presentable opportunities.
A 5v3 penalty in the Army Men’s favour threatened to tip the game’s momentum towards St. Petersburg, but SKA was unable to convert that opportunity. Despite a stronger showing in the latter half of the second period it couldn’t really assume control of proceedings and ultimately had no answer as Loko took command in the closing stages.
(4) Donbass 0
(3) Lev 1
Lev wins the series 4-2
There was no happy homecoming from Donbass: the Donetsk team was allowed to play in its own arena for the first time since March 13, but a defeat against Lev means its play-off campaign ends here.
A solitary goal proved sufficient to give Lev victory on the night and a 4-2 series success, making the Prague team the first from outside Russia to reach the KHL’s last four.
That goal came in the 50th minute through Ondrej Nemec; his wrist shot from long distance flew past Jan Laco, who, not for the first time in this series, was effectively screened by Jiri Novotny. Thus the Czechs exacted maximum punishment for Yury Silnitsky’s indiscretion, breaking the deadlock and edging into the conference final.
But stand-in goalie Atte Engren also deserves his share of the plaudits with 20+ saves for a shut-out in only his second play-off appearance of the season. And in the final seconds only the crossbar denied Donbass an equalizer as Evgeny Dadonov was millimetres away from taking it to overtime.
It took a long time for the goal to arrive, but there were plenty of chances before that. Lev hit the post early on through Jakub Matai, while Donbass duo Dadonov and Maxim Yakutsenya both forced good saves out of Engren.
Lev might have had the lead midway through the second period: Patrik Zackrisson forced the puck home from close range, under pressure from Ruslan Fedotenko, but the video official ruled that the goal was off its moorings before the disc crossed the line and the marker was chalked off.
And early in the third Randy Robitaille thought he had given Donbass the lead, but the whistle had gone before he rammed in the puck from the slot.
Lev now goes on to face Lokomotiv in the Conference Final series, which begins in Prague on April 2.