Hard-fought road wins for CSKA and SKA put the two Army teams ahead in the Western Conference Semi-finals.
(SKA leads the series 2-1)
Three players expelled from the game, another red-line goal from Dynamo’s Andrei Kuteikin and a hard-fought victory for SKA head coach Oleg Znarok in front of his former fans in Moscow – game three of this series had plenty of talking points.
This gritty clash was settled by two power play goals early in the third period, with the visitor turning around a 1-2 deficit following Lukas Kaspar’s expulsion from the game.
Kaspar’s ejection deep in the second period was a turning point. At that time, Dynamo was leading 2-1 and SKA was smarting from a similar sanction against Pavel Datsyuk. The Magic Man rarely gets into trouble, but he was called for charging after a big hit on Alexei Tsvetkov left the Dynamo man needing to be helped from the ice. There was a sense that everything was going astray for the visitor, until Kaspar was sent to the locker room for crunching Sergei Shirokov into the boards with the puck far away. Like Tsvetkov, Shirokov needed assistance to get back to the bench.
Early in the third, Alexei Tereshchenko picked up a minor, giving SKA a 5-on-3 opportunity. Vadim Shipachyov duly tied the scores, firing home from a tight angle off Nikita Gusev’s pass. Within a minute, it was 3-2, after Evgeny Dadonov forced home the rebound following Anton Belov’s shot.
The drama continued: Alexander Dergachyov became the third player to get an early place in the showers after the SKA forward was called for checking to the head. But, having seen its lead crumble as it failed to kill a major penalty, Dynamo was unable to inflict similar punishment on the opposition. SKA held out, and then had chances to extend its lead: a penalty on Dmitry Vishnevsky, a one-on-one chance for Dadonov to test Alexander Yeryomenko from close range. At the other end, Dynamo had fleeting moments, but struggled to find the killer pass to unlock the visiting defense. An empty-net goal from Ilya Kovalchuk put the outcome beyond doubt.
Earlier, things had looked brighter for the home team. Yakov Rylov fired the Blue-and-Whites ahead early on, scoring off a Denis Kokarev pass despite SKA’s claims of offside. Even after Jarno Koskiranta levelled the scores in the 10th minute, Dynamo got back in front thanks to another mighty strike from Kuteikin, who spotted the chance to lash in another shot from the red line and beat Mikko Koskinen for the second game in a row. But then the penalties started coming, and SKA kept its collective nerve to turn the game around and claim the lead in the series.
(CSKA leads the series 2-1)
Stephane Da Costa moved onto seven playoff points with a goal and an assist to help CSKA claim a series lead against Lokomotiv. The French international had a helper as Kirill Petrov opened the scoring in the first period, then delivered the game-winner in the third after Dmitry Lugin had tied the scores.
Prior to the start of this series, the focus had been on Lokomotiv’s special teams. The Railwaymen had dominated the power play against Dinamo Minsk, while its PK had chipped in with an impressive trio of short-handed goals. The evidence suggested that penalty trouble could cost CSKA in this match-up.
And, indeed, penalties played a key role in determining the outcome of this game – but it was Loko that was on the receiving end. The home team fluffed its lines on the PP, and offered too many opportunities for CSKA to enjoy a numerical advantage at the other end. The first chance came midway through the first period and, after diligently probing in the Loko zone, the Army Men went in front with barely 10 seconds of the power play left. Da Costa got to the goal line and fired a pass across the ice to the unmarked Petrov, who beat Alexei Murygin with a wrist shot.
Loko levelled early in the second, with Lugin scoring from close range after Yegor Averin’s rush down the right caused chaos in the CSKA defense. But the home power play was faltering. A four-minute advantage in the first period had already been spurned, and late in the middle stanza the visitor had two minors in quick succession, giving Loko an extended period of 5-on-4 hockey without generating a goal.
That was even more costly when CSKA showed how to capitalize on an advantage early in the third. Jakub Nakladal and Vladislav Gavrikov picked up minor penalties, and Da Costa made the most of the 5-on-3 situation. The Frenchman exchanged passes with Bogdan Kiselevich before smashing a one-timer low past Murygin from the top of the face-off circle. Two assists for Kiselevich, 1+1 for da Costa and a 2-1 lead that was sufficient to see CSKA claim the win and move ahead in the series.
Loko’s penalty problems continued – Petri Kontiola found himself in the sin-bin as CSKA got an unexpected second chance at 5-on-3 play. It didn’t produce another goal, but it scuppered the home team’s hopes of building up some momentum to finish the game. Lokomotiv was allowed just three shots on Viktor Fasth’s net in the third period as the visitor shut the play down superbly to secure the win.