The Western Conference final will see SKA take on Lokomotiv after the Railwaymen steamed to victory in game six of its match-up against CSKA, wrapping up the series in fine style. Despite CSKA enjoying the bulk of possession for much of the game, Loko combined resilient defense with clinical attacking to put the game out of reach, while visiting D-man Grigory Panin took a double game penalty for two rough hits on Lokomotiv forwards.
(Lokomotiv wins the series 4-2)
Lokomotiv steamed into the Western Conference final as it completed an upset win over regular-season champ CSKA to set up a showdown with SKA St. Petersburg next week. The Railwaymen made it three wins from three games to wrap up the series on home ice despite a committed attacking performance from a CSKA team determined to force a game seven decider in Moscow on Monday evening.
A goal in each period – and a big penalty against visiting D-man Grigory Panin – eased Loko’s passage into the next phase, while goalie Alexander Sudnitsin claimed his second successive win, making 44 saves.
The first period saw CSKA have by far the better of the play, with Valery Nichushkin and Bogdan Kiselevich at the heart of most of the good things in the Army Men’s play. But those efforts went unrewarded, with Sudnitsin once again frustrating the Moscow offense and Loko looking for chances on the counter attack. Come the eighth minute, and one of those opportunities came off for the home team. Pavel Kraskovsky was the scorer, finding the net for the second time in this post season, but Yegor Korshkov was the architect. His rush took him behind the CSKA net, where a perfectly weighted backhand pass found young Kraskovsky on the slot and ready to shoot home the opening goal. For young Ilya Sorokin, recalled to the CSKA starting line-up, it was hardy the ideal start.
At the other end, the pressure was intense – but CSKA struggled to get good looks at Sudnitsin’s net. A resilient defensive display, typified by the commitment shown by forward Daniil Apalkov as he twice pulled off vital blocks towards the end of the stanza, limited the Army Men’s opportunities. At the first intermission, Sudnitsin had nine saves, while Loko had blocked 10 shots before they could trouble the goalie.
That pattern continued in the second period, with CSKA enjoying the bulk of possession but struggling to carve out clear chances. And again, Lokomotiv was better able to cash in on the opportunities it created, extending its lead on the power play in the 34th minute. Max Talbot got it, pouching an instinctive finish from close range after D-men Staffan Kronwall and Jakub Nakladal stretched the visiting defense.
Talbot was also involved in the other big incident of the middle stanza when he found himself on the receiving end of a high hit from Grigory Panin. The Loko forward was left crumpled on the ice while Panin was awarded a double 5+game penalty for that offense and a similar assault on Brandon Kozun in the subsequent brawl. Nakladal was given a minor for roughing in the same incident.
That extended penalty cost CSKA dear, with Loko extending its lead early in the third period as the Army Men remained short-handed. Nakladal kept the puck in the visitor’s zone – just – and fed Kronwall in the right-hand circle. He drilled the puck across the face of Sorokin’s net and Andrei Loktionov was on hand to turn it in at the far post.
Now the game was all but out of CSKA’s reach, with two further minutes of the Panin double penalty to kill. Lokomotiv’s defense remained as rigorous as ever, with Vladislav Gavrikov adding his name to the list of players putting their body on the line to block shots from the visiting offense but by now the home team was well on top and the outcome was already beyond serious doubt. There was a consolation goal for CSKA, scored by Stephane Da Costa on the power play in the closing minutes, but this was very much Lokomotiv’s day.