Andy Potts,
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There was no stopping SKA as Evgeny Dadonov and Jarno Koskiranta swept the Army Men into the next round. Later in the day, CSKA followed its fellow Army team into the Conferences semis with an overtime win at Jokerit. Dinamo Minsk denied Lokomotiv a similarly smooth passage, escaping a potential whitewash with a 4-2 win. In Nizhny Novgorod, Torpedo and Dynamo Moscow required overtime for the fourth game in a row; the visitor battled back from 0-2 to win it.

SKA storms into second round

Vityaz Moscow Region 1 SKA St. Petersburg 7

(SKA wins the series 4-0)

SKA powered into the Conference semi-finals after a convincing victory in Podolsk completed a sweep over Vityaz. Not only did the Petersburg team deny Vityaz a single post-season victory, it did so in a manner that left little doubt as to where the balance of power lay. Not once could Vityaz argue it ran Oleg Znarok’s team close in a series where the Army Men scored 23 goals and allowed just six at the other end.

Three first-period goals settled the outcome of this game – and with it, the series – as a thoroughly professional SKA performance left no room for any revival from the outsider.

Jarno Koskiranta opened the scoring in the fourth minute, converting an early power play when he got the decisive touch on a Patrik Hersley slap shot. Vityaz looked to respond immediately, but after Mario Kempe wasted a chance on a breakaway, SKA went straight up the ice and doubled the lead. Vadim Shipachyov, left out of the team on Saturday, got the goal after Nikita Gusev’s charge turned defense into offense. Vityaz goalie Harri Sateri will be disappointed not to have reached a shot over his glove despite being screened when Shipachyov fired the puck. Soon after it was 3-0, Sergei Shirokov enjoying the extra space on another power play and scoring from close range.

With the game effectively over inside nine minutes, SKA went on to extend its lead. Koskiranta got his second in the 27thminute, then Nikolai Prokhorkin got his first playoff goal of the season in the 32nd before Evgeny Dadonov wrapped it up with a power play goal in the final second of the middle session.

The final stanza saw Alexei Makeyev pull a goal back for Vityaz but Dadonov had the final say with a last-minute goal to wrap up an emphatic victory. Vityaz’ first look at the KHL playoffs is over; SKA can rest a week before beginning its Conference Semi-Final series on March 8.

27.02.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

Dynamo rallies for another OT win

Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 2 Dynamo Moscow 3 (OT)

(Dynamo leads the series 3-1)

Don’t make plans to do anything soon after watching Torpedo and Dynamo battle it out in this year’s playoffs – it’s a sure bet that overtime will disrupt the rest of your evening.

For the fourth game in a row these two were deadlocked after 60 minutes, and the tying goal came later than ever as Daniil Tarasov forced the puck home with 39 seconds left. It wasn’t the prettiest of goals, but in the context of this series it could be crucial. Ilya Nikulin thumped a shot into the slot as Dynamo made one final push to tie the game. Alexei Tereshchenko found himself in a wrestling bout with two Torpedo D-men, and in the confusion the puck broke for Tarasov to grab his first goal of this year’s playoff.

For Dynamo, which had trailed since the 10th minute and found itself 2-0 behind in the middle session, the relief was obvious; for Torpedo, so close to levelling the series, that goal hurt. In overtime, it hurt more. Three minutes into the extras, Maxim Karpov got his second game-winner of the series, forcing the puck into the net from under Ilya Proskuryakov’s pads after Tereshchenko ran the puck into the goalie before he could get his shot away. The home team was unhappy; Karpov was in danger of encroaching on the paintwork, but Peteris Skudra could not appeal from the bench and the goal was given. In the space of five minutes of game time, Torpedo had gone from a tied series to a 1-3 deficit. A trip to Moscow fuelled by the momentum of back-to-back victories became a trip to the capital in a last-ditch bid to save the series.

Initially the game seemed destined to follow a different course. Despite injury problems that cost Torpedo the services of Roman Derlyuk and Kaspars Daugavins in the first period, the home team gained the lead thanks to Vladimir Galuzin’s first goal of the playoffs in the 10th minute. The Dynamo defense failed to deal with a shot that flashed wide and bounced behind the net; the puck dropped kindly for Galuzin, who forced it into the net off the skates of goalie Alexander Yeryomenko.

The second stanza began with another Torpedo goal when Evgeny Mozer converted a power play chance in the 23rd minute. But Dynamo rallied, testing Ilya Proskuryakov in the Torpedo net before getting a goal back through Ivan Igumnov. The youngster produced a neat backhand finish from close range after Daniil Tarasov’s attempted shot turned into a pass via the pads of the home goalie.

27.02.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) - Dynamo (Moscow)

Dinamo survives the last-chance saloon

Dinamo Minsk 4 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2

(Lokomotiv leads the series 3-1)

Dinamo finally got a win in this series, saving itself from a sweep in the first phase of the playoffs and taking the action back to Yaroslavl for a fifth game on Wednesday.

After disappointing in the early stages of its playoff campaign, the Belarusian team knew that tonight had to be the night if it was going to repay any of the faith placed in it by a fanatical Minsk public. And, this time, Dinamo did not disappoint.

The first period was short on chances – Dinamo mustered just four shots on goal – but long on clinical finishing as two of those attempts found the net. Andrei Stepanov opened the scoring on the power play in the 10th minute, converting a 5-on-3 advantage when he fired home Sergei Kostitsyn’s pass to the far post. Alexander Pavlovich added a second in the 17th minute, pouncing on a loose puck in Dinamo’s end and racing up the ice to beat Alexei Murygin.

If the opening stanza, which saw Dinamo take the lead for the first time at any stage of this series, delighted the home crowd, the second offered cause for concern. A breakdown on the home power play saw Loko get its third short-handed goal of the series when Yegor Averin fed Daniil Apalkov on a counter-attack in the 24th minute. The teams quickly traded two more goals: Evgeny Kovyrshin for Dinamo, Alexander Kadeikin for Loko. The mood was tense, the game tight. Ben Scrivens, in the home net, was performing wonders to preserve his team’s lead. Then another breakaway, Alexander Materukhin pulling the strings, and Andrei Stas scored on Murygin at the second attempt.

A two-goal lead, and some protection against the relentless Lokomotiv pressure. The third period followed the pattern of the first two, with Lokomotiv doing most of the attacking and Dinamo – Scrivens in particular – keeping the visitor at bay. This time, it worked out. No further goals and a victory that keeps the Belarusians’ hopes alive for at least one more game.

27.02.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Dinamo (Minsk) – Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

Platt wins it for CSKA

Jokerit Helsinki 0 CSKA Moscow 1 (OT)

(CSKA wins the series 4-0)

Jokerit made CSKA wait for its place in the second phase of this season’s playoffs, but an overtime winner from Geoff Platt was enough to break the deadlock in this one and take Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team through in four games.

It deep into overtime, and this encounter was still awaiting its first goal. Platt, aggrieved over an earlier marker that was ruled out, chased down a Mikhail Naumenkov pass from the blue line as it thudded into the boards. Coming back on the wraparound, his first attempt found Ryan Zapolski’s pads, but the second stuffed the puck beyond the goalie. A video review confirmed that Zapolski’s resistance, which amounted to 39 saves, was over. CSKA was safely through.

Each game in this series has got closer, and with CSKA on the brink of winning the series, this one proved tighter than ever.

The first period was a distinctly cautious affair, with Jokerit reluctant to expose itself to the visitor’s counter-attacks while CSKA was happy to wait for the home team to try to raise the tempo.

In the second, things started to liven up, with the Army Men fired by a sense of injustice after a 25th-minute goal was ruled out. Alexander Popov thought he had opened the scoring when he pressured Jokerit’s defense into an error then forced the puck into the net, but the video review ruled that he had kicked it over the line. Unluckily for Popov, Russia’s football season restarts next weekend.

And CSKA was on the wrong side of the TV once again in the third when Platt tucked away the rebound from his own shot, only to be pulled up for goalie interference. Jokerit was struggling for good looks at Ilya Sorokin’s net, but managed a couple of testers from Ville Lajunen in the last minutes as the game headed into overtime.

The pattern of regulation proved to be the pattern of overtime. CSKA had more of the puck and more of the chances, although a dangerous breakout from Jesse Joensuu might have won it for the Finns not long before Platt’s goal.

For the second year running, though, CSKA made it through the opening round without losing a game despite being taken to overtime more than once by its opponent. The Moscow team now has more than a week to recover before starting its next series on March 8.

27.02.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Jokerit (Helsinki) - CSKA (Moscow)

Andy Potts,
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