Nizhny Novgorod (17:00)
(SKA leads the series 2-1)
A flurry of SKA scoring either side of the first intermission gave the defending champion the edge in this game – and put the Petersburg team ahead in the series.
The visitor scored four goals in seven minutes, jumping to a 4-1 lead and taking control of this encounter in Moscow. CSKA reduced the deficit with a counter-attack goal late in the second period, but could not get back in contention and must now look to win its next home game and tie the series before Friday’s return to the north.
Patrick Thoresen opened the scoring after 16 minutes after SKA bamboozled the home defense. Vadim Shipachyov and Vladislav Gavrikov swapped places, with the defenseman collecting his team-mate’s feed from the blue line and going behind the net before picking out Thoresen with an inviting pass.
CSKA found an immediate response through Kirill Petrov, whose close-range finish was approved despite a challenge from the visiting bench. Znarok and his colleagues felt that goalie Mikko Koskinen was impeded in the build up to the goal, but the officials had no objections to the play. The long pause did little to help the home team, and Jarno Koskiranta quickly reinstated SKA’s lead when he whipped home a one-timer off Alexander Barabanov’s feed between the hash marks.
An all-action end to the first frame was followed by an equally lively start to the second. Patrik Hersley increased SKA’s lead – the Swedish D-man getting his first goal of this year’s playoffs. Hersley reacted fastest when Mikhail Pashnin’s wayward clearance gave up possession in centre ice; his rush and finish gave Ilya Sorokin no chance and an appeal for offside came to naught. And within a couple of minutes, another CSKA slip led to another goal after Artyom Sergeyev failed to control the puck and allowed Sergei Plotnikov’s pass to release Nikita Gusev for the 4-1 marker. CSKA brought Lars Johansson into the game in place of Sorokin, and there was a feeling that this could be a key game in the series. If SKA continued to punish home errors and rack up the goals, the momentum of this whole contest could be irrevocably determined.
SKA was not immune to errors of its own, though, and a misplaced pass from Ilya Kablukov handed CSKA a way back into the game. Mikhail Grigorenko made the interception, picked out Kirill Kaprizov as the youngster exited the penalty box, and collected the return pass to score a breakaway goal on Koskinen.
However, there was no way back for the Moscow team. The final frame saw SKA settle into a robust defensive pattern that allowed few opportunities for CSKA. The visitor’s task was eased by a trio of power plays: as CSKA got more frustrated, its discipline began to waver and SKA could run down the clock comfortably. Indeed, the biggest save of the session came from Johansson, denying Gusev from close range after Plotnikov danced around the back of the net. CSKA rarely threatened to test Koskinen so severely and the game reached its inevitable conclusion with two minutes left when Barabanov scored an empty-net goal to put the issue beyond doubt. To sum up CSKA’s evening, Johansson was off the ice for just seven seconds before SKA added its fifth.
CSKA now has two days to pick itself up before the teams meet again in Moscow on Wednesday.