(CSKA leads the series 3-0)
Once again, Spartak’s offense failed to find an adequate answer to Ilya Sorokin in the CSKA goal, and the Army Men marched on to another comfortable victory. Despite conceding a goal in the 58th minute, Sorokin & Co are now just one victory away from securing a place in the Western Conference semi-finals.
After 120 goalless minutes on Leningradsky Prospekt, the pressure was on the Red-and-Whites to change things at home. However, the opening frame showed that there was little to be done about a dominant CSKA defense. Spartak mustered just five shots on goal and fell behind to a Sergei Andronov effort in the seventh minute. That goal was a nightmare for Nikita Bespalov, who saw Andronov’s shot loop up off his pads and bounce into the net off his shoulder.
CSKA had a second goal ruled out shortly after when the officials ruled that a visiting forward had encroached on Bespalov’s crease, but the Army Men extended their lead in the second period with two further scores. First, Sergei Shumakov harried Spartak behind its own net, and when Kirill Petrov intercepted the clearance, he returned the puck to Shumakov for a close-range finish. Then, on the power play, Mikhail Grigorenko added a third. Once again, Bespalov got a big piece of the puck as Grigorenko raced onto Greg Scott’s pass, but the goalie could not keep his hand behind it and saw it bounce into the net. Bespalov was out, and midway through the game, CSKA was in complete control. Spartak’s shot-shy post season was destined to bring a third successive loss.
A video review saved Spartak further embarrassment in the final frame, but its forwards were unable to make much impact on the CSKA defense until too late in the game – and perhaps the series. After 177 minutes, 32 second without a goal, Ilya Tataluyev finally broke Spartak’s duck: it was a reward for a much-improved third period, in which the Red-and-Whites succeeded in taking the game to their opponent for the first time in the series. However, it was never going to be sufficient to salvage anything, and CSKA can wrap up this series when the teams go again tomorrow.