(SKA leads the series 3-0)
SKA remains on course for a sweep of Severstal – but once again, the Steelmen gave the defending champion plenty to think about before succumbing in overtime.
The length and volume of the celebrations among SKA’s traveling fans after Jarno Koskiranta got the winner was lively testament to how hard Severstal pushed its illustrious opponent. Not for the first time, SKA finds itself on the brink of a series sweep not so much by virtue of dominant hockey but thanks to its ability to conjure a way to win in difficult circumstances.
This time, it was Koskiranta who made the difference. The Finn isn’t always first on the list of SKA’s big-name forwards, but he took up a perfect position in front of Julius Hudacek to divert Ilya Kovalchuk’s shot into the net and win the game.
Overall, though, this was a frustrating evening for the visitor. In the opening stanza, SKA had much the better of the play but could not find a way past Hudacek. After the break, things changed: a 5-on-3 power play pushed the momentum towards Severstal, and eventually the home team got its break. The opening goal, in the last minute of the second period, won’t win any beauty contests, but it was a tribute to the hard work of the home team. Dmitry Kagarlitsky refused to give up on a lost cause, chasing the puck back and hassling Andrei Zubarev into an error on his own blue line. Onto the puck like lightning, Kagarlitsky raced away to beat Mikko Koskinen and give Severstal the lead.
It was midway through the third period before SKA finally found an answer to Hudacek. The Petersburg team was dominant, but it needed Maxim Karpov’s contribution 10 minutes from time to level the scores. As SKA attacked from deep, the former Traktor and Dynamo man exchanged passes with Nikita Gusev before shooting home the tying goal from the right-hand face-off spot.
The direction of play continued almost exclusively in one direction – in overtime SKA had seven shots to one and limited Severstal to just 26 seconds of time on offense – as the defending champion dragged itself to yet another post-season victory.