(CSKA wins the series 4-0)
CSKA joins Lokomotiv in the Western Conference semi-finals after completing a sweep of Moscow rival Spartak. Once again, the Army Men ensured that the Red-and-Whites struggled to generate any offense in the game and the series concludes with Spartak managing just one goal in four games. Mat Robinson’s effort was enough to win this one for CSKA, with Ilya Sorokin making 21 saves for his third playoff shut-out of the season.
Spartak, in deep trouble in its series with CSKA but lifted at last by getting a goal late in game three, rang the changes. Alexander Trushkov took over between the piping, giving Nikita Bespalov a chance to recover after two poor goals on him in Wednesday’s game. And the team brought a more aggressive attitude to the game, finally looking to go toe-to-toe with the Army Men, rather than hope to soak up pressure and grind out a result on the counter.
The new attitude almost reaped early rewards. Valery Nichushkin took a first-minute penalty for CSKA, and Spartak’s Ryan Stoa missed a golden chance to open the scoring on the power play. That proved to be the story of the opening frame: Spartak created, but could not convert. Alexander Osipov came closest, rattling Ilya Sorokin’s post late in the frame, but there was no scoring before the first intermission.
Sadly for Spartak, it never again got as close to winning this game and prolonging the series. CSKA came out for the second period with a renewed determination to attack and, midway through the frame, got its reward. Mat Robinson opened the scoring, the former Dynamo defenseman firing home from the right-hand circle as Spartak’s defense put all of its efforts into steering Nichushkin away from the net.
The goal proved decisive. Spartak’s on-going problems in front of the net never found a solution, and a third-period incident when Stoa fed Lukas Radil, only for the Czech to fan his shot wide of an open net, summed up the Red-and-Whites’ failings in this series. For the third time in four games, Spartak fired blanks, and CSKA was safely into the Conference Semi-Final.