(2) SKA 4
(8) Lokomotiv 5 (1OT)
Series tied at 1-1
Any fears that Lokomotiv’s hopes in this series were doomed before the start thanks to SKA’s extra preparation time were set aside by a rousing recovery as the Yaroslavl team forced overtime.
Loko battled back from 2-4 down to tie it up with one minute left on the clock, and went on to finish the job in overtime. Vladislav Kartayev, who only returned from Metallurg Novokuznetsk in January, got probably the biggest goal of his career to date on 70:39, beating Alexander Salak at the second attempt after Staffan Kronwall’s shot was blocked.
Kronwall also sparked Loko’s third-session recovery, firing a long-range effort past the well-screened Salak in the 53rd minute. But the drama was still to come: Roman Cervenka was sin-binned, Loko withdrew goalie Curtis Sanford and, in the last seconds of the penalty, Daniil Apalkov tied it up with his first goal of the play-offs. It was a neat finish close in on Salak, but questions might be asked of the SKA defense which seemed to leave a large gap in front of goal as Sergei Plotnikov pushed play back from behind the goal line.
Earlier it had seemed that tonight was the night when Ilya Kovalchuk finally came to the play-off party. In the first series he managed a solitary goal, and began life on the other wing with new line-mates when Lokomotiv came to town.
Tonight the switch paid off: after twice rattling the goal frame in the first period, Kovi claimed his first play-off assist on Ilya Kablukov’s go-ahead goal early in the second and went on to score a peach of his own to re-instate that lead after Sergei Konkov had tied things up with his second of the night.
Konkov was not the only double scorer, though: Cervenka found the net twice for SKA, lifting his play-off tally to 5+6 and keeping him on top of the club’s scoring charts. But that wasn’t enough to save SKA from its first post-season defeat.
(3) Lev 3
(4) Donbass 4 (4OT)
Series tied at 1-1
Lev and Donbass set a new KHL record for the longest ever game, with Donbass forward Evgeny Belukhin stopping the clock at 126:14 to level the series. It wasn’t the most elegant of goals, coming in a scramble after a Evgeny Dadonov shot was blocked by Petri Vehanen, but it was enough to finally end the game.
On a day when every game went beyond 60 minutes, the final act of the evening also proved to be the longest by some margin, with the teams sharing three goalless periods of sudden death – equivalent to a full game – before finally producing a result.
And when it finally came, Belukhin’s second of the night gave a welcome lift to Donbass before it returns to its adopted home in Bratislava for games three and four.
Prior to Friday night’s game, Donbass learned that the league had turned down its request to continue playing home games in Donetsk. There were also selection concerns after a trip to hospital saw Dmitry Kagarlitsky and Oleg Piganovich join long-term absentees Randy Robitaille and Vaclav Nedorost on the injured list. The team also had confirmation that the opening goal in last night’s game was incorrectly awarded by the video official, but while an apology and a change of personnel in the refereeing team may represent a moral victory, it does little to alter the outcome of that game.
Not that Donbass was going to let despondency get the better of it in game two. Just four minutes had been played when Evgeny Dadonov claimed the opener after his wraparound attempt was sliced into his own net by Lev’s Ondrej Nemec in a misguided attempt to clear the danger.
But things went downhill for Donbass late in the first period: first Ruslan Fedotenko was expelled from the game after a high hit on Jakub Nakladal.Then, during the subsequent power play Lev’s Petr Vrana scored twice – both on rebounds from shots fired in from the center of the blue line – to give his team the lead at the first intermission.
In the second session the teams traded goals in quick succession. Belukhin, who had taken over Fedotenko’s place on the second line, scored with a mighty shot on the power play, but Donbass was level for just 21 seconds before Lukas Cingel was credited with Lev’s third after bundling the puck home from close range.
Maxim Yakutsenya, a persistent threat all night, finally got his goal to tie it up at 3-3 late in a cagey third period: he tipped home a Evgeny Dadonov shot to take the game into overtime. There, more than five hours after the puck was dropped, Belukhin finally made a decisive intervention.