It all went according to the form book on day one of the KHL play-offs, with the four home sides all recording victories. But Dynamo Moscow needed overtime to beat Dinamo Minsk in the day’s hardest fought battle.
SKA strolling on
(1) SKA St. Petersburg 4
(8) CSKA Moscow 1
SKA lead the series 1-0
In St. Petersburg, Western Conference favorite SKA lived up to its billing with a 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow. Roared on by 11,400 fans, the home side took command of this Army battle in the first period with goals from Alexander Kucheryavenko and Ivan Nepryayev, before Alexei Yashin gave CSKA a glimmer of hope on 16:42.
But the Petersburg team has been impressive throughout this season and extended its lead in untroubled fashion thanks to Evgeny Artyukhin and youngster Vladimir Tarasenko - and such was SKA’s dominance that home goalie Jakub Stepanek faced just three shots on goal in the final session.
Torpedo in seventh heaven
(2) Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 7
(7) Dinamo Riga 3
Torpedo lead the series 1-0
Torpedo missed out on last season’s play-offs, but the conference runner-up wasted little time in adapting to the end-of-season action this time around. A thumping 7-3 at home to Dinamo Riga gave Torpedo a perfect start to the series, but the Latvians will feel that they showed enough in the early stages to suggest their giant-killing play-off pedigree has not deserted them just yet.
When Martins Karsums struck on 36:27 to bring Dinamo back to 4-3, it seemed that a roller-coaster play-off game might well go the distance. But the home side had other ideas, and Mikhail Varnakov’s second of the night within two minutes re-opened a two-goal cushion which Torpedo never yielded. Varnakov went on to complete his hat-trick, appropriately enough completing the scoring with an assist from Ilya Krikunov who had earlier opened the scoring from a Varnakov pass.
Gorokhov settles it
(3) Dynamo Moscow 2 OT
(6) Dinamo Minsk 1
Dynamo lead the series 1-0
Just as in their regular season clash last week, Dynamo Moscow and Dinamo Minsk proved inseparable over 60 minutes of play. A feisty affair between familiar opponents occasionally threatened to spill over: Dynamo’s Leo Komarov was dismissed in the first period for a high challenge on Libor Pivko, much to the disgust of the home crowd, while visiting goalie Lars Haugen and defenseman Jere Karalahti upset their hosts with some robust wrestling for possession of the slot.
After two goalless periods, it was the visitors who finally opened the scoring on a powerplay on Peter Podhradsky, with Filip Novak sitting out a penalty. But, having paid his penalty, the Moscow defenseman got his revenge on the opposition by grabbing the equalizer on 52:17. That took us into extra time, and with home fans anxiously recalling how their heroes had lost the opening game of the last two play-off campaigns, there was huge relief when Ilya Gorokhov fired home the decisive goal on 62:30.
The narrowest margin
(4) Atlant Moscow Region 1
(5) Severstal Cherepovets 0
Atlant lead the series 1-0
Last season’s runner-up Atlant made a winning start to its latest play-off campaign - but left it desperately late to grab the only goal at home to Severstal. There were just 38 seconds left when Nikolai Zherdev turned home the rebound from a Patrick Zackrisson shot to claim the game’s only goal - and the forward promptly picked up a misconduct penalty in the emotional aftermath. For Severstal, playing under acting coach Alexander Smirnov, it was a second successive shut-out in Mytishchi; for Atlant the dream of another Gagarin Cup adventure is up and running.