The opening day of this year’s playoffs saw plenty of action. In Moscow, Dynamo needed 93 minutes to get the only goal of the game against Torpedo, with Mikhail Biryukov in superb form. Across town, CSKA blitzed Jokerit with two quick goals, but the home win ended amid ugly scenes as the teams got sucked into two brawls in the last minute.
Elsewhere, SKA’s power play lifted Oleg Znarok’s team past Vityaz, while Lokomotiv scored twice in the third period to defeat Dinamo Minsk.
(Lokomotiv leads the series 1-0)
Lokomotiv claimed the early initiative in this playoff series, but found it tough to break down a rugged Dinamo Minsk team that had chances to snatch victory on the road at the start of its post-season campaign.
Eventually, third-period goals from Yegor Korshkov and Petri Kontiola proved good enough for the home team, delighting much of the 9,000-strong crowd in Yaroslavl. However, home goalie Alexei Murygin also had to be at his best to deny Dinamo at least a crack at overtime.
Even as Loko dominated the first period, Murygin looked sharp to deny Matt Ellison early on and stop Sergei Kostitsyn late on. But most of the early action involved Loko probing for an opening, with Ben Scrivens called upon for a double save midway through the stanza to deny Alexander Kadeikin and Artyom Ilyenko in quick succession.
The second period brought more of the same. Dinamo looked to play on the counter attack, Loko failed to turn possession into goals. The most glaring miss came in the 35th minute when Jakub Nakladal fired wide of an unguarded net. Some of the home crowd might have feared that this was not to be their day.
Finally, Korshkov broke the deadlock in the 45th minute. Dinamo’s defense was undistinguished as Vladislav Gavrikov collected the puck behind the goal line and fed Pavel Kraskovsky on the slot. His attempted shot was blocked, but Korshkov picked up the rebound, drew Scrivens out of position and squeezed the puck home from a tight angle.
Murygin was back in action almost immediately to deny Rob Klinkhammer twice from close range, but a power play for the home team saw Kontiola double the off Brandon Kozun’s pass. Ellison reduced the deficit with eight minutes to play, scoring from a tight angle after Dmitry Korobov’s shot bounced off Murygin’s pads, but Dinamo could not find a way to tie the game.
(SKA leads the series 1-0)
Vityaz made its playoff debut away to red-hot favorite SKA – and ended up paying the penalty for giving the home team’s power play too many opportunities.
With the Army Men’s offensive power well known to anyone who has followed the KHL this season, it was obvious that Vityaz’ first task would be to frustrate a roster stacked with talented forwards. For much of the first period, the visitor managed that fairly well, but it all went wrong in the last five minutes. Two penalties in quick succession undermined Vityaz’ efforts: the first was killed, but almost immediately Igor Golovkov got a minor for slashing and this time SKA struck. Anton Belov was the scorer, with the defenseman flashing home a one-timer off Vadim Shipachyov’s feed in the last minute of the opening stanza.
Vityaz responded in the middle session, soaking up more SKA pressure before Alexander Nikulin led a lightning counter-attack that ended with Alexei Makeyev firing home the equalizer. But another penalty handed the initiative right back to the home team, and confusion among the four players left to defend the net saw the puck bounce into the path of Nikita Gusev for the 2-1 goal.
Any hopes of a third-period fightback were quashed early on. Evgeny Dadonov picked up his second point of the night when his shot rattled the underside of the crossbar and dropped over the line. It took a video review to confirm the goal, but once SKA had a two-goal cushion it could hold Vityaz at arm’s length until the hooter.
(CSKA leads the series 1-0)
A fast start from CSKA left Jokerit with too much to do, but the final outcome was overshadowed by a series of brawls late in the game.
For Jokerit, which was criticized for not being tough enough after last season’s first-round loss against Torpedo, the evident willingness to mix it might offer some consolation. But the truth is that the Finns’ hopes of getting something from this game were all but over inside seven minutes.
A combative start from the visitor spilled over into an early penalty against Brian O'Neill, and from the power play Bogdan Kiselevich exchange passes with Stephane Da Costa before firing home the opening goal. Despite the game starting half an hour later than Lokomotiv’s meeting with Dinamo Minsk, Kiselevich also claimed the first goal of this year’s post-season.
Things quickly got even better for the home team, with Greg Scott making it 2-0 on 6:05. Jan Mursak tidied up a loose puck behind the net and brought play back out in front where Scott glided into the danger zone to shoot past Ryan Zapolski.
Jokerit improved, but could not find a way back into the game until midway through the second period when Antti Pihlstrom scored against his former club. But Kiselevich quickly responded to make it 3-1 with his second of the night.
Only in the third did the visitor start to really stretch CSKA. Mika Niemi rattled the post after 45 minutes, then a desperate challenge by Grigory Panin resulted in a penalty shot for Tommi Huhtala. But Huhtala could not beat Ilya Sorokin as the young goalie calmly dropped his blocker on the puck, and the two-goal advantage remained.
The importance of Sorokin’s save was underlined two minutes later when a powerful Ville Lajunen shot made it 2-3, but Vladimir Zharkov had the final say with an empty net goal to seal the win. That wasn’t the end of the action, though. Two separate rumbles in the last 20 seconds left both penalty boxes full to overflowing. Both teams finished with five players in the bin, while Oliver Lauridsen and Pavel Karnaukhov got an early look at the showers. Game two on Thursday promises to be a bruising encounter.
(Dynamo leads the series 1-0)
Mikhail Biryukov’s spell as Dynamo goalie back in 2008-2010 isn’t one of the best-remembered moments of a long career. But tonight, back at his former club in the colors of Torpedo, he produced a display that left his old employers frustrated for 93 minutes.
With 28 saves in regulation and a further 20 in overtime, Biryukov defied the home team as the opening game of this series went into two periods of extras before Maxim Karpov supplied the winning goal. He even overcame two juddering challenges early in the second period of overtime, shrugging off the after effects of accidental collisions with Denis Kokarev and Martins Karsums to soldier on behind an increasingly porous Torpedo defense. A Dynamo power play soon followed, and again Biryukov had the answers to deny the home team.
It wasn’t until the 93rd minute that the goalie finally yielded to Karpov. Lukas Kaspar’s pass from behind the net dropped nicely for his team-mate, and the former Traktor forward fired home to bring the game to an end.
Not that Biryukov was alone in impressing between the piping. Alexander Yeryomenko, already a Blue-and-White legend, delivered another fine display in both regulation and sudden-death, with his double block deep in OT1 to deny Carter Ashton and Bobby Butler catching the eye. But it was Dynamo who had more reason to feel frustrated as overtime dragged on. Biryukov had already pulled off a big stop in the dying seconds of regulation to deny Andrei Kuteikin, and followed that up with more crucial saves to keep out Ilya Nikulin and Ansel Galimov. Kuteikin finally beat the goalie, but not the crossbar, and the game rolled into a second stanza of extras.
Earlier, Torpedo began the game more brightly, having the better of the first period as Dynamo struggled to settle into its game. But the Blue-and-Whites improved after the intermission, without finding a way to seriously test Biryukov. Increasingly it felt like this could be a one-goal game, with both teams failing to take the chances they created.