Andy Potts,
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SKA St. Petersburg 1 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 (1-0, 0-2, 0-0)

(Series tied at 1-1)

Last season, Lokomotiv produced the biggest shock of the Western Conference playoffs when it knocked out regular season champion CSKA. Today, after a 4-0 loss against SKA in the opening game, Dmitry Kvartalnov’s team bounced back to inflict the first playoff defeat on the defending champion and blow the series wide open ahead of game three in Yaroslavl on Monday.

Photo: 17.03.18. KHL Championship 2017/18. Playoffs. SKA (St.Petersburg) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

Second-period goals from Artur Kayumov and Ilya Lyubushkin won for Loko after Kvartalnov made changes from the first game. Alexander Sudnitsin replaced Alexei Murygin as the starting goalie, and 17-year-old Grigory Denisenko made his playoff debut as Brandon Kozun missed out. Sudnitsin finished with 28 saves, despite an injury scare in the third period; Lokomotiv managed to outshoot its rival on the way to a vital victory.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. Vadim Shipachyov opened the scoring, just as he had in yesterday’s game. This time, the goal came from a quick response to a tussle behind the net: Ilya Kovalchuk got the puck back to Artyom Zub, the defenseman’s diagonal found Shipachyov and his one-timer went below a tumbling Loko player and through Alexander Sudnitsin’s pads.

Unlike Friday’s game, though, SKA was unable to extend its lead. The early stages of the second period were disrupted by a rash of penalties, and Lokomotiv finally converted a power play chance as Yegor Yakovlev sat out a minor. Kayumov, a young forward making only his second appearance in this year’s playoffs, got the goal, firing home Andrei Loktionov’s pass from a tight angle as Denis Mosalyov provided the screen.

The visitor continued to press, and got its reward for a dominant second-period display that saw it outshoot SKA 21-6. Loko moved in front in the 39th minute when Lyubushkin smashed home the puck after Pavel Kraskovsky won his draw against Patrick Thoresen. After a heavy loss in the opening game, the Railwaymen were right back on track. Loko might even have potted a third in the final seconds of the frame: the puck stopped almost on the goal-line, and no visiting forward was able to get a stick to it and force it over the line.

SKA responded with a fast start to the final frame, but could not find a way to ruffle Lokomotiv’s defense. Even an injury worry for Sudnitsin, struggling for a moment after Shipachyov landed awkwardly on him, could not hamper Loko’s progress. The visitor played a secure, sensible defensive game, staying out of the box and declining to gallop recklessly forward in search of a third goal but relying on efforts from the edge of the circles to keep Mikko Koskinen alert. SKA finished the game frustrated, Lokomotiv lifted.

Andy Potts,
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