(SKA leads the series 1-0)
Last season, the series between SKA and Lokomotiv was a bewildering affair. SKA took the verdict in a sweep, but Loko could legitimately argue it had a chance of winning every game. Twelve months on, though, and the Army Men look ready to deliver a more convincing verdict.
From Vadim Shipachyov’s goal after 49 seconds to Mikko Koskinen’s shut-out, this was absolutely SKA’s day. And the impressive manner of the home team’s victory does not augur well for Lokomotiv’s prospects in the rest of the series.
Shipachyov’s opener came from some clumsy Loko defense: a half-hearted attempt to clear the puck from the slot went straight to Yegor Yakovlev, and he fed Shipachyov in the right-hand circle. The angle was tight, but the forward’s finish was flawless. 1-0.
The host maintained its dominance, and got its reward late in the first frame when Jarno Koskiranta doubled the lead. Sergei Shirokov’s feed from behind the net took the Finn away from Staffan Kronwall and Jakub Nakladal and left him with a close-range finish past Alexei Murygin.
The worry for Loko was not that it’s own performance was poor; the visitor was doing the right things, but SKA was doing it better. Midway through the second period, Vyacheslav Voynov added a third, converting a 4-on-3 power play with a powerful shot from the centre point. Then Vladislav Gavrikov’s long shot flew in off the post; a painful blow from a former Lokomotiv favorite, and a goal that pushed the game out of the visitor’s reach.
The game finished 4-0; Lokomotiv had marginally the better of the final period but the stats told a powerful story. There was just one shot between the teams, but SKA enjoyed 14 minutes of time on offense, compared with 8:33 for Loko. That extra time in front of the net enabled the home team to carve out the clear-cut looks it needed to settle the outcome decisively.