Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Day two of the playoffs delivered the first sensation of postseason. Spartak, which finished in seventh in the regular season after a poor run of form at the end of the campaign, went to St. Petersburg and stunned SKA with a 2-0 victory. Elsewhere, the results went to form. CSKA and Avtomobilist enjoyed shut-out wins over Vityaz and Traktor, while Barys came from behind to see off Torpedo.

Assured start for Avto

Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 3 Traktor Chelyabinsk 0 (2-0, 1-0, 0-0)

(Avtomobilist leads the series 1-0)

The Eastern Conference winner began its playoff campaign with an impressive victory over Traktor, with Nigel Dawes and Dan Sexton leading the way. Avtomobilist has never before advanced beyond the opening round of the KHL playoffs, but a hugely successful regular season has raised hopes that the Ural team might be poised to go deep into postseason this time around. And today’s opening game against last year’s beaten Conference finalist gave plenty of reasons for confidence.

Photo: 26.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Playoffs. Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg) - Traktor (Chelyabinsk)

When the teams met in the regular season, Avtomobilist was also dominant: it won all four encounters, and posted three shut-outs along the way. For Traktor, it was clear that discipline and tight defense would be crucial to stalling the Motormen.

Instead, though, the visitor crumbled in the first period. Shortly after the midway point in the opening stanza, Traktor twice allowed power play goals. The Avtomobilist power play clicked as Sexton fed Dawes in the face-off circle to open the scoring in the 14thminute. Just 30 seconds later, the visitor was a man down once again. Defenseman Ivan Vishnevsky’s shot was pushed into the path of Sexton for the second goal of the game.

Traktor might have changed the game had it managed to convert a 5-on-3 advantage late in the opening frame. However, Avto’s special teams were on it at both ends of the ice and the opportunity was stifled. Vitaly Kravtsov went close at the start of the second period, but Jakub Kovar had his number.

Once back at full strength, the home team extended its lead. Dawes turned provider to set up Anatoly Golyshev for 3-0 and there was little Traktor could do as Kovar put up the shutters to turn away 26 shots and make a perfect start to the playoffs.

Andrei Martemyanov, head coach, Avtomobilist

I’d like to thank the team for delivering what we asked for. I think the fans enjoyed it, and I’d like to thank them for their support. It was a hard game between two well-matched teams. Jakub Kovar was great for us tonight, our defense wasn’t perfect. Tomorrow we’ll rest up and prepare for the next one. Everyone is in good shape so we’ll see who will play in the next game.

Alexei Tertyshny, acting head coach, Traktor

We started the first period OK but gave up some silly penalties and the home team took advantage. In the second and third periods we had some great chances, Avtomobilist’s goalie played really well. We’ll look over this game and get ready for Thursday.

Barys recovers to down Torpedo

Barys Astana 4 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 1 (0-1, 1-0, 3-0)

(Barys leads the series 1-0)

Curtis Valk returned from injury ahead of schedule and his three assists helped Barys to turn this game around in the third period. Although the final scoreline appeared convincing, there was little doubt that the game was a tough battle for the Chernyshev Division winner. For long periods, Barry Brust frustrated the home offense and Torpedo took an early lead on a rare first-period attack and threatened to cling on to the advantage to the end.

Photo: 26.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Playoffs. Barys (Astana) - Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod)

Brust’s evening began with a smart stop to deny Matthew Frattin in the fifth minute and he continued to keep Barys at bay until the end of the second period. By that time, Torpedo had found the net with one of the few chances it could fashion: Damir Zhafyarov’s pass set up Robert Sabolic for a power play goal that stunned the home crowd.

The mood was not greatly enhanced as Torpedo gradually found ways of keeping the pacey Barys offense to the outside and limited the number of good looks the home team got at Brust. It wasn’t until a power play late in the middle frame that the Kazakhs finally drew level. Nikita Mikhailis found Andre Petersson in the circle and the Swede’s wrist shot did the rest.

Another PP at the start of the third proved to be a game-breaker. Torpedo was called for too many men and Barys fashioned a play that ended with Brandon Bochenski shooting home the go-ahead goal. A couple of minutes later Frattin extended the lead after a neat combination with Valk and Bochenski added his second of the night late on to complete the scoring.

David Nemirovsky, head coach, Torpedo

Barys skated well in the first period and spent a lot of time in our zone. But we managed to get that first goal. In the second period I thought we started to play a bit better, even though we allowed the goal at the end. In the third period we made some painful errors – we watched them back on the video – and they decided the game. But it’s only 1-0, we’ll keep playing.

Andrei Skabelka, head coach, Barys

It wasn’t an easy game, it was tough from the start. We were worried that after we finished the season on the road we wouldn’t be in the best shape for the start of the playoffs and that was how it turned out. We created chances but our conversion was poor. In the end, though, we managed to get that Far East trip out of our system. In the third period we skated more, created more and that enabled us to win despite some awkward moments dealing with counter-attacks. And, as David said, it’s 1-0 – let’s get ready for the next game.

St. Petersburg sensation

SKA St. Petersburg 0 Spartak Moscow 2 (0-2, 0-0, 0-0)

(Spartak leads the series 1-0)

Not many people remember how, in the first round of the KHL’s first ever playoffs, Spartak swept SKA. Back then, both teams were firmly in the middle of the pack; the outcome was possibly a mild surprise but hardly a headline-grabbing shock. The Red-and-Whites are still a very long way from repeating that success 10 years later, but today’s result in Petersburg represents a huge surprise.

Photo: 26.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Playoffs. SKA (St.Petersburg) - Spartak (Moscow)

It was something of a smash-and-grab. SKA dominated the game from the start. Julius Hudacek’s first anxious moment came after just 25 seconds when Andrei Kuzmenko went close and the visiting goalie was kept busy throughout the game. In the end, he made 30 stops to frustrate the home offense and backstop his team to a memorable victory.

The pressure on Hudacek’s goal was relentless in the first period and Spartak’s only outlet came when it got its first power play of the evening in the 16th minute. A welcome respite from wave after wave of Army offense turned into something even greater: Yaroslav Dyblenko’s shot was blocked, Ilya Zubov collected the rebound and had the presence of mind to pass for Robin Hanzl to fire into the open side of Igor Shestyorkin’s net.

A minute after that goal, SKA took another penalty. And Spartak got another goal. This time, Artyom Fyodorov set up Martins Karsums and the Latvian found the top shelf to make it 2-0. Suddenly, the shock was on.

Subsequently, Spartak all but disappeared as an attacking force and SKA piled everything into offense. But Hudacek stood firm, his defense backed him up with some courageous play to protect the lead and, after 60 minutes of play, the home team was unable to find a single goal. The 11th edition of KHL playoffs has its first sensation.

Igor Ulanov, coach, Spartak

We stuck to our gameplan, we were disciplined. In the playoffs, you can’t achieve anything without discipline. Our special teams were strong, we didn’t concede a goal even though SKA had chances. Everyone knows what kind of offense they can generate. I’d like to thank our fans for their support, it was great to hear them in the arena.

Ilya Vorobyov, head coach, SKA

Congratulations to Spartak. When you don’t score goals, it’s hard to win games. We’ll have a look at what went wrong for us. On Thursday, you’ll see some very different hockey.

Smooth start for CSKA

CSKA Moscow 4 Vityaz Moscow Region 0 (0-0, 2-0, 2-0)

(CSKA leads the series 1-0)

Vityaz only secured its playoff place on the last day of the regular season, and had to rely on Dinamo Riga losing here at CSKA to secure eighth place. Moreover, the Moscow Region club’s only previous postseason action in the KHL ended with a sweep at the hands of SKA two years ago. A foregone conclusion?

Photo: 26.02.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Playoffs. CSKA (Moscow) - Vityaz (Moscow Region)

Not necessarily. The two games between these teams in Podolsk saw a win and an overtime loss for Vityaz, hardly results that suggest an unbridgeable gap. And the first period backed up that theory. CSKA had a goal disallowed early on – Alexei Marchenko denied when the video showed the Jannik Hansen had impeded Joni Ortio in the visiting net – and never quite recovered. Vityaz had chances on the power play and Alexei Makeyev possibly should have done better when he was sent clean through on home goalie Ilya Sorokin.

The middle frame saw CSKA take control, enjoying almost all of the meaningful offense. However, Ortio continued to keep the Army Men at bay until the 35th minute when Mikhail Grigorenko broke the deadlock. One minute later, Maxim Shalunov made it 2-0 and the game was firmly back on the script suggested by the teams’ regular season placings.

In the third period, CSKA scored twice more. Konstantin Okulov extended the lead in the 45th minute and Andrei Svetlakov potted a short-handed tally in the last second to seal a convincing win. Sorokin needed to make just 10 saves to claim a shut-out. It’s now 183 minutes, 19 seconds, since he last allowed a goal.

Valery Belov, head coach, Vityaz

We had a good attitude, we were committed but we made a few mistakes and unfortunately we were punished every time. We need to make even fewer mistakes; those power play chances, Makeyev’s breakaway, those have to be converted. We completely lost it in the second period, we didn’t take enough shots. We’ll learn from this and come back stronger.

Igor Nikitin, head coach, CSKA

It was tough at the start, like we expected. As we came into the game the expectation put a bit of pressure on us. But when we got into it, we started to show what we could do. Gradually we forced some errors from our opponent. We’re under no illusions about this series.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Related clubs

Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg) Avtomobilist (Ekaterinburg)
Barys (Nur-Sultan) Barys (Nur-Sultan)
Vityaz (Moscow Region) Vityaz (Moscow Region)
SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
Spartak (Moscow) Spartak (Moscow)
Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod) Torpedo (Nizhny Novgorod)
Traktor (Chelyabinsk) Traktor (Chelyabinsk)
CSKA (Moscow) CSKA (Moscow)
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