(CSKA leads the series 2-0)
There was only one goal in this game – but it was a beauty! And it all came from the instincts of Kirill Kaprizov.
The 20-year-old, rapidly maturing from talented prospect into genuine star, hunted down Ville Lajunen behind the Spartak net. After winning possession, he then conjured a pass out of nothing – no-look, on the backhand, from a position where he had little right to expect another forward to have made up the ground to threaten Nikita Bespalov’s goal. And he played it right onto Maxim Shalunov’s tape, setting up an emphatic finish worthy of settling any game.
The problem for Spartak was that it came in the sixth minute of this meeting, and frustrated any hopes of holding the Army Men at bay following yesterday’s 6-0 romp. All thoughts of playing a way back into contention in the series took a blow – now, Spartak had to look to find a way past Ilya Sorokin for the first time in post season, while still trying to silence the impressive home offense.
It was a tall order, and in the end the Red-and-Whites only managed to fulfil half of it. Bespalov, that early goal notwithstanding, was impressive: 40 saves on the net ensured his team always had a chance of snatching something. At the other end, though, Spartak’s offense failed to generate anything like enough. A mere 10 efforts on Sorokin’s net in the first two periods made it hard to find a way back into the game; the final stanza was better, with nine shots at CSKA’s goalie, but there was rarely a sense that Vadim Yepanchintsev’s team could force its way back into contention.
And that’s where things have to change when the action moves across Moscow on Wednesday. After 120 minutes without a goal, Spartak must start posing some serious questions of the CSKA defense if it is to make a contest of this series.