Andy Potts,
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Home victories for Dynamo Moscow and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl saw both teams wrap up their series and conclude the first round of Western Conference playoff games. The pair join CSKA and SKA in the Conference Semi-finals, with Loko playing CSKA and Dynamo facing SKA for the fifth time in six playoff campaigns.

Lokomotiv steams into Conference Semi-finals

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4 Dinamo Minsk 1

(Lokomotiv wins the series 4-1)

Lokomotiv joined SKA and CSKA in the Conference Semi-finals with a comfortable victory at home to Dinamo Minsk. The Railwaymen clinched a 4-1 series victory despite giving up an early lead in Wednesday’s game, condemning the Belarusians to yet another first-round exit in post season.

Dinamo, aware that only victory would keep its playoff campaign alive, absorbed some early Lokomotiv pressure before taking the lead in the 12th minute. Dmitry Korobov dumped the puck behind the net, Rob Klinkhammer gave chase and – with Loko’s defense a beat behind the play – found a way to score one the wraparound.

But play behind the net was tricky for both defenses. Ben Scrivens looked to clear the puck from his territory only for Brandon Kozun to intercept. The play went back to Petri Kontiola, whose pass picked out Staffan Kronwall with the time and space to rip home a wrister and tie the game.

The second period saw Lokomotiv tighten the screws. The home team had far more possession and territory, and might have added more goals to Pavel Koledov’s go-ahead marker in the 36th minute. Denis Mosalyov hit the bar and drew a good save from Scrivens in a separate incident, Kontiola had a dangerous solo break and Yegor Averin tested the visiting goalie late in the stanza.

It took time to make the game safe, especially with Dinamo beginning the third period strongly. Jakub Nakladal had to be alert to stifle a 2-on-1 break-out, and Alexei Murygin was at his best to deny Sergei Kostitsyn when the Belarusian forward had a good chance on the slot. By the 49th minute, the pressure was starting to worry Lokomotiv and the home team called a time-out in the hope of calming the situation.

Alexei Kudashov’s decision paid off. A penalty on Dinamo’s Nikita Komarov gave Lokomotiv the chance it needed, and 10 seconds later Kozun fired home a Kronwall pass to establish a 3-1 lead that was good enough to settle the game. Max Talbot added an empty-net goal to wrap things up – 4-1 on the night, and 4-1 in the series.

01.03.17. KHL Championship 2016/17. Playoffs. Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) - Dinamo (Minsk)

Torpedo pays the penalty as Dynamo advances

Dynamo Moscow 3 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 1

(Dynamo wins the series 4-1)

For once it didn’t need overtime – Dynamo clinched the victory it needed inside 60 minutes. But in a game riddled with minor penalties, Torpedo paid the price for allowing its opponent too many opportunities on the power play. The visitor’s indiscretions – nine minor penalties, one major – robbed it of momentum at crucial times and cost the game-winning goal.

Dynamo’s first goal wasn’t officially a power play goal – but it came just one second after Dmitry Semin returned to the ice after a minor penalty, and its roots lay in the prolonged pressure that the Blue-and-Whites put on Mikhail Biryukov’s net. Alexei Tsvetkov’s shot was saved, but the puck rebounded for Yakov Rylov to open the scoring.

Then Torpedo ran into penalty trouble again at the end of the second period and Tsvetkov was architect of a power play goal to double the home lead. He collected the puck from Fyodorov, waited for his team mate to take up a dangerous position on the slot and slung the puck low and hard into the danger zone. Fyodorov wrestled free of a D-man to turn it into the net.

Those penalties late in the middle stanza wrested the initiative away from Torpedo as it looked to chase the game, and the final period began in a similar fashion. The visitor, playing for its playoff survival, looked menacing early on, especially when Denis Shurakov carved out a chance for Danil Veryayev, only to find Alexander Yeryomenko had the angles covered. But all that changed when Alexei Potapov went in hard on Fyodorov. The Dynamo man was helped to the locker room, Potapov followed him off the ice after picking up an ejection for boarding. Soon afterwards, Brandon McMillan got a minor penalty, and Torpedo faced two minutes of 3-on-5 penalty kill. Dynamo, aware that it had a lead, opted not to go for the throat and took much of the pace out of the game, allowing time pressure to build up on the visitor.

But Dynamo ran into penalty trouble of its own when Denis Kokarev picked up a minor. Evgeny Grachyov hit the post off a Sam Lofquist pass on the power play and seconds after Kokarev’s return, Torpedo halved the deficit. Kirill Urakov was the scorer, recovering to find the net at the second attempt after hitting the post with the goal at his mercy.

Suddenly there was a very real prospect of overtime for the fifth game in a row in this series, especially when Dynamo’s Alexei Tereshchenko became the latest player to pick up a penalty. Torpedo took a time-out with 2:48 left to play, seeking to plot a last-gasp, series-saving goal. Biryukov abandoned his net with 90 seconds left, but this time there would be no late drama. Instead, Tereshchenko emerged from the sin bin, got the puck and fired into the empty net to settle the issue.

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

Andy Potts,
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Dinamo (Minsk) Dinamo (Minsk)
Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
OHC Dynamo (Moscow) OHC Dynamo (Moscow)
Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod)
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