Andy Potts Andy Potts
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CSKA and SKA won the opening games of their Western Conference semi-final series – but did so in contrasting fashion. In Moscow, CSKA eased past city rival Dynamo 4-1; in Petersburg a single goal separated SKA and Lokomotiv in a nervy affair.

CSKA strikes first in Moscow derby

CSKA Moscow 4 Dynamo Moscow 1 (2-0, 1-1, 1-0)

(CSKA leads the series 1-0)

The regular season champion produced an emphatic display to defeat cross-town rival Dynamo in the opening game of this Western Conference semi-final series. The two previous meetings in this campaign had ended in comfortable CSKA victories and this one proved to be no exception.

Photo: 13.03.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Playoffs. CSKA (Moscow) - Dynamo (Moscow)

The first period set the tone, with the home team topping the shot count 14-4. Maybe the additional preparation time after sweeping Vityaz in round one made a difference; CSKA came flying out of the blocks and left Dynamo standing at the start. The opening goal came as early as the fourth minute when a neat interchange pulled the Blue-and-White defense out of position before Kirill Kaprizov tucked home a simple chance into the gaping net.

CSKA’s control of the first period was impressive and got its reward in the closing moments when Mikhail Grigorenko made it 2-0 with a goal out of nothing. A rare Dynamo attack ended when Michal Cajkovsky’s wild effort crashed into the glass behind Ilya Sorokin’s net and sling-shotted out of the CSKA zone. Grigorenko collected the puck in center ice, left Juuso Hietanen for dead, and buried his shot beyond Alexander Yeryomenko.

Dynamo was relieved to get to the intermission and whatever Vladimir Krikunov had to say during the break had an instant impact. Just 75 seconds into the middle frame, Cajkovsky halved the deficit with a one-timer from the pointoff Patrik Zackrisson’s feed. That ushered in a far more evenly matched session, but CSKA ensured it kept control of the game thanks to a power play goal from Linden Vey midway through the period.

The final stanza began with Nikita Nesterov firing CSKA 4-1 in front. Dynamo appealed for goalie interference, concerned about Alexander Popov’s positioning as he jockeyed for position with Andrei Mironov in front of Yeryomenko’s net. The video showed nothing to concern the officials, though, and the goal stood.

CSKA takes the lead in the series and, on this evidence, looks a good bet to win a playoff match-up against Dynamo for the first time in the KHL era.

Vladimir Krikunov, head coach, Dynamo

We were taught a good lesson today; the sooner we learn to play as quick as them, the easier our task will be. In games like this you need to battle, to fight for real. Today, by and large, we were playing by numbers.

Igor Nikitin, head coach, CSKA

We set up well and that determined the outcome of the game. We had good concentration, good energy. We understand that this is only the first game.

Rundblad is SKA’s gamewinner again

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

(SKA leads the series 1-0)

This was billed as a clash of high-level experience against youthful exuberance. SKA, blessed with a stellar roster but showing uncharacteristic signs of vulnerability against Spartak in the previous round, took on a Lokomotiv side full of potential but largely unproven on the big occasion.

Photo: 13.03.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Playoffs. SKA (St.Petersburg) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

However, it took a goal from Swedish defenseman David Rundblad to separate the teams in a close encounter in Petersburg. Rundblad, hardly prolific in regular season play, now has three game-winners from SKA’s five victories so far in this playoff campaign.

The only goal of the game arrived on the power play with Lokomotiv’s penalty kill conquered at the fifth attempt. Nail Yakupov and Jarno Koskiranta worked an opening, the Finn’s shot was parried by Alexander Salak and the puck went straight to Rundblad at the far post with all of the goal to shoot at.

If many expected SKA to blitz Loko’s youngsters from the off, the visitor had not read that script. The early stages saw the Railwaymen take the game to the home team. Magnus Hellberg was the busier goalie in the early stages, looking sharp to deny Artyom Ilyenko, Daniil Misyul and Andrei Loktionov in the opening minutes. SKA continued to struggle throughout the first period: even the power play that ultimately did for Spartak in round one was misfiring tonight, with Loko killing three penalties relatively easily.

In the second period, Lokomotiv did better at keeping out of the box and continued to squeeze the life out of SKA’s offense. Again, there was little to choose between the teams; Alexander Salak’s toughest save came during a home power play late in the frame from a Pavel Datsyuk effort. After 40 minutes, Loko topped the shot count and was providing the Army Men with plenty of headaches. SKA, meanwhile, was struggling to create genuine scoring chances.

Rundblad changed all that early in the third and the home team began to play with slightly more control once it got in front. But, as these teams meet in playoff action for the fourth season in a row, there are plenty more fireworks to come between two familiar opponents.

Dmitry Kvartalnov, head coach, Lokomotiv

Unfortunately, once again, we couldn’t find the way to unlock their defense. We need to add something on offense, although we had chances today. There will be nerves, but the main thing is to keep looking forward.

Ilya Vorobyov, head coach, SKA

It was a good, competitive game with plenty of battles. We expected Lokomotiv to try and set the pace and that’s how it played out. After that, it always likely to be decided by the first goal.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
HC Dynamo (Moscow) HC Dynamo (Moscow)
CSKA (Moscow) CSKA (Moscow)
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