(CSKA leads the series 2-0)
So, how exactly does one score on CSKA. For the second game in this series, and the fifth in this year’s playoffs, the Army Men blanked the opposition. It wasn’t that Jokerit failed to generate offense – having learned from yesterday’s 0-4 loss, the Finns fired in 28 shots, compared with 18 in the first game. But there was still no way past Ilya Sorokin for Eeli Tolvanen & Co.
Sorokin now has five shut-outs from six playoff appearances, conceding just one goal – a late consolation effort to Spartak’s Lukas Radil late in game three of that first-round sweep. The 22-year-old has faced 128 shots, with a 99.2% success rate and a GAA of 0.17. Numbers like that add up to a team that is almost unbeatable, and so far in these playoffs the Muscovites have not been seriously threatened in any game.
At the start of this game, CSKA pressed hard. On Friday, Jokerit struggled to compete in the early stages, and the game was all-but decided after 20 minutes with the home team two goals to the good. This time, again, the play was largely in one direction, but Kari Ramo held firm in the Jokerit goal and there was evidence that his team was more ready to fire in shots on its rare forays up the ice. CSKA looked stronger, but there was no score at the first intermission.
However, this team is not just about strong defense and solid goaltending. There’s some real offensive flair on the roster too, and that’s how the Army Men got their lead five minutes into the second period. Valery Nichushkin did superbly, collecting a backhand pass from Alexander Popov and holding off the attentions of Sami Lepisto. There looked to be little on for the Russian international, with Lepisto successfully ushering his man away from the immediate danger zone, but Nichushkin’s vision saw him thread a pass to the far post where Mikhail Grigorenko got to the puck ahead of Pekka Jormakka to open the scoring.
The second, killer goal, came six minutes into the final frame with the teams playing 4-on-4. Sergei Andronov hared down the right wing and showed great composure to send Ramo sliding across his crease in anticipation of a shot to the far post. With a gap opening on the short side, Andronov shot into the net just before he crashed into the piping himself.
Against a team with a defense as solid as CSKA’s, a two-goal lead looked like an insurmountable obstacle. And so it proved. The Finns pressed, created opportunities around Sorokin’s net, but could not find a way back into the game.