Both Western Conference Semi-final series are level after two games. SKA eased to a home win over Dynamo to wipe out its loss in overtime in game one, while Lokomotiv edged a road victory at CSKA to bring the series back to Yaroslavl with the score at 1-1.
(Series tied at 1-1)
Two power play goals in the first period set SKA on the road to tying up this series and cancelling out Wednesday’s overtime loss despite a remarkable late goal from Dynamo’s Andrei Kuteikin.
The game began at a high tempo, with chances at both ends in the early exchanges, but penalty trouble hurt the visitor badly as the host took control of the game. SKA went ahead in the 13th minute while Alexei Tereshchenko sat out his hooking penalty. Anton Belov fired in a shot from the point, Alexander Yeryomenko saved but the rebound went straight to Jarno Koskiranta’s stick. The Finn’s shot got caught up in Evgeny Ketov’s legs, but the forward reacted smartly and stuffed the puck beyond Yeryomenko at the second attempt.
That changed the balance of the game, with SKA starting to assume greater control of proceedings. And a second strike not long before the intermission offered them Army Men a measure of comfort. Vadim Shipachyov was the player left in space as Dynamo sought to kill another penalty, Nikita Gusev found him to set up the goal.
In the middle session, SKA was the stronger team even though it failed to extend its lead. Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk produced several threatening moments, while the visitor was largely restricted to attempts from the blue line as the home defense worked hard to protect Mikko Koskinen’s net.
Dynamo would not lie down, and after a post season full of overtime games there was no doubt about the Blue-and-Whites’ resilience under pressure. But this time there would be no grand revival as SKA did a great defensive job for much of the third period. True, the home team was unable to land a third, knock-out blow on its opponent, but as anyone in hockey will tell you, teams that don’t shoot find it hard to score. Dynamo was limited to just three shots on goal in the final stanza, strangling any chance of forcing yet another period of overtime. One of those shots, though, was a sensation: Kuteikin, frustrated by the solid SKA defense, let fly from well inside his own half and saw the puck rear up off the ice to beat the startled Koskinen in stunning style. A memorable moment for the Dynamo D-man, but not enough to change the outcome of this game.
(Series tied at 1-1)
Lokomotiv hit back in game two, tying the series before heading to home ice for the next meeting on Sunday.
Both teams were forced to reshuffle after CSKA’s victory in the series opener on Wednesday. Injuries to Jan Mursak and Greg Scott prompted returns for the Army Men’s Valery Nichushkin and Artyom Voroshilo. Lokomotiv also had an enforced change, with Rushan Rafikov’s suspension for his hit on Scott leading to a call-up for Denis Osipov.
CSKA enjoyed the better of the opening stages, but fell behind to a freakish goal credited to Daniil Apalkov. Denis Denisov seemed to have all the time in the world to control the puck and clear it from danger after Apalkov sent a hopeful pass across the face of CSKA’s net with no Loko forward within sight. But the vastly experienced Denisov suffered a costly lapse of concentration and, after controlling the puck, he mishit his intended clearance and looked on in horror as Ilya Sorokin saw the disk squirm through the five-hole and into the net. Behind the home bench, Dmitry Kvartalnov’s face was a mixture of bewilderment and fury; Lokomotiv celebrated a gift-wrapped goal.
That hardly reflected the balance of play in the opening stanza, though, and there was a sense of justice being done when Nichushkin created a fantastic equalizer with 30 seconds to play in the period. The forward collected the puck at the top of the left-hand face-off circle and set off for the net. He slalomed his way through the visiting defense then, unselfishly, slipped the puck to Alexander Popov for a close-range finish.
Despite dominating the play, CSKA could do little to prevent Lokomotiv regaining the lead early in the middle frame. Andrei Loktionov won a face-off in the home zone, the puck came back to Yegor Averin and he whipped home a wrister that left Sorokin with no chance. Home frustrations mounted as chances came and went in the second period but Lokomotiv held on to its lead.
The visitor’s power play has been one of the most effective weapons in view during this year’s playoffs, and Petri Kontiola reminded CSKA of its potency once again early in the third period. The Finn made it 3-1 in the 44th minute, getting a deft touch on a Jakub Nakladal shot to beat Sorokin. The Army Men responded almost immediately, with Geoff Platt scoring against one of his former clubs after Dmitry Kugryshev squeezed out a pass even as he fell to the ice.
But 15 minutes was not enough to save the home team. Another flurry of penalties – shared between both sides – disrupted the flow of the game and Lokomotiv benefited thanks to some perceptive play from Averin. With a scrum unfolding around the CSKA net, Averin had the presence of mind to slip the puck away from goal and into the path of Andrei Loktionov, who needed no second invitation to fire into the unguarded side of Sorokin’s target.
The importance of that goal became even clearer in the last minute when Nichushkin tucked away the rebound from a Stephane Da Costa shot to make it 3-4, but Lokomotiv held on to claim the win.