The opening day of the Western Conference Semi-finals saw yet another overtime win for Dynamo Moscow thanks to Maxim Karpov’s hat-trick at SKA. The other Army team, CSKA, continued its perfect post-season form with a 4-2 victory at home to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, but forwards Jan Mursak and Greg Scott suffered injuries.

Svetlakov leads CSKA to win

CSKA Moscow 4 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2

(CSKA leads the series 1-0)

Two goals from Andrei Svetlakov paced CSKA to victory in the opening game of this Western Conference Semi-final series. The youngster converted two power play chances to give the Army Men the edge and maintain his team’s perfect post-season record.

Stephane Da Costa gave CSKA the ideal start with a third-minute goal. The Frenchman got a vital touch on Sergei Alexeyev’s shot from the point as the Army Men kept Loko from clearing its zone in the early stages of the game.

Then came a power play for CSKA, and the home team was quick to take advantage. Petri Kontiola spent just 17 seconds in the box before Andrei Svetlakov doubled the lead, lifting the puck over the prone Alexei Murygin after the goalie had denied Kirill Petrov from close range. For a moment, it seemed that Lokomotiv was running off the rails.

But the Railwaymen boast a deadly PP of their own, and when Alexander Popov picked up a minor for tripping, Lokomotiv wheeled out the big guns. Defensive duo Staffan Kronwall and Jakub Nakladal had enjoyed great success in the series against Dinamo Minsk, and the pair combined here to reduce the arrears. Nakladal, centrally positioned just inside the blue line, traded passes with Kronwall in the right-hand circle before stepping up to shoot past Ilya Sorokin. Lokomotiv only managed four shots on target in the first period, but still had a vital goal and a lifeline in the game.

Nakladal then tied it up in the second period, with Brandon Kozun collecting his 10th assist of the playoffs. CSKA’s defense fluffed the chances to clear its lines, with Ivan Telegin failing to get a strong contact on the puck as he looked to sweep it away from his net. Kozun collected it, fed Nakladal, and the Czech saw his shot flip up off the stick of the luckless Telegin and deceive Sorokin as it went in off the bar.

Parity did not last long. Another Kontiola penalty led to another Svetlakov goal as CSKA regained the initiative. Petrov was involved once again, feeding Svetlakov as the youngster waiting on the goal line. His attempt to play the puck into the danger zone paid off: Mikhail Pashnin slid in to clear, but could only push it into the net with his skate to put the home team back in front in the 29thminute.

This time, CSKA would not relinquish its lead. The second period was enlivened by a fight between Jan Mursak and Pavel Kraskovsky – the Lokomotiv man got the better of that battle, but finished on the losing side in the game, while the battered Mursak did not return to the ice after serving his penalty for fighting. The third saw Sergei Andronov wrap up the win when he made it 4-2 during a spell of four-on-four hockey. CSKA swiftly turned defense into offense, with Andronov setting Telegin on a charge towards Murygin’s net. The goalie blocked the first attempt, but offered up a tempting rebound for Andronov to gobble up. Lokomotiv was done, and CSKA had the early initiative in this series.

It wasn’t all good news for the home team, though. Forward Greg Scott was helped off the ice late in the first period after taking a hit to the head from Lokomotiv’s Rushan Rafikov. Dmitry Kvartalnov later described it as “very serious” and feared that the Canadian would not play again in this series.

08.03.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. CSKA (Moscow) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

Karpov heroics put Dynamo ahead

SKA St. Petersburg 2 Dynamo Moscow 3 (OT)

(Dynamo leads the series 1-0)

Dynamo Moscow is fast becoming the overtime king of this post season. For the fifth time in six games the Blue-and-Whites went beyond the scheduled 60 minutes, and for the fourth time the Moscow team came out on top.

Maxim Karpov was the hero, adding his third game-winner of the playoffs to his two markers in regulation, delivering the kind of MVP performance that once persuaded SKA head coach Oleg Znarok to sign him for Dynamo.

His winning goal came in the 78th minute after SKA was penalized for too many men. Juuso Hietanen fired in a powerful, if inaccurate, shot from the face-off spot and as the puck headed wide of Mikko Koskinen’s net it got caught up in Karpov’s skates. The forward kept his balance, took control of the situation and stuffed it home from close range to claim the win.

Dynamo thought it had secured victory even before that after Yakov Rylov got the puck in the net in the 70th minute. He bundled the disk over the line after Alexei Tsvetkov’s shot was blocked, but the goal was already off its moorings and the score was ruled out by the video officials. For many, it was a reminder of a notorious incident from the 2012 playoff meeting between these teams when SKA had an overtime goal ruled out on the video and Dynamo snatched victory on the night before going on to sweep the series. That night, Denis Mosalyov scored three for the visitor; this time Karpov became the new hat-trick hero.

Karpov, another product of the Traktor organization, made his breakthrough back in the 2012-13 season when he – alongside fellow prospects Valery Nichushkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov – helped the Chelyabinsk team to the Gagarin Cup final, where it lost to Dynamo. Karpov made an impression, and Oleg Znarok signed him for the Moscow club. Tonight, with Znarok behind the opposing bench, the forward was ready to shoot down the man who once hired him.

He opened the scoring in the sixth minute, holding off the attentions of Yegor Yakovlev on the slot to force home Andrei Mironov’s pass from the point. After that, though, Dynamo struggled to make much of an impression on the home defense as SKA dominated but failed to get past Alexander Yeryomenko.

The visiting goalie was finally beaten early in the second period after some fine interplay by the Shipachyov-Dadonov-Gusev line. Nikita Gusev brought the puck into the Dynamo zone, Evgeny Dadonov farmed it out to Vadim Shipachyov, and the forward drew Yeryomenko out of position before slipping a pass back to Gusev for a simple finish at the far post. With the scores level, and SKA so dominant for much of the game, it seemed almost inevitable that the home team would go ahead and take control.

Dynamo, though, had other ideas. Apart from one good opportunity for Ilya Kovalchuk, the visitor largely limited the host to half chances. Then Karpov struck again. Alexei Tereshchenko’s feed found the 25-year-old in the right-hand circle. The angle was tight, but Karpov’s rising shot beat Mikko Koskinen at his near post, flying over the goalie’s shoulder to reinstate Dynamo’s lead.

The final stanza was tense. Dynamo, noted for its solid defense, looked to keep SKA at arm’s length and preserve its slender advantage. SKA, renowned for its powerful offense, kept on looking for a way through. Chances were scarce at either end, and the clock was ticking towards an anxious finale for the home team when a power play finally brought the scores level. Pavel Datsyuk got the goal – no masterpiece, this time, but a precise finish off a Sergei Shirokov pass. And that was enough to take the game to a fast-paced and absorbing period of overtime.

08.03.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. SKA (St.Petersburg) - Dynamo (Moscow)