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CSKA Moscow 3 SKA St. Petersburg 1 (1-0, 1-1, 1-0)

(CSKA leads the series 2-0)

Another CSKA victory over SKA – the Muscovites’ sixth of the season against its Army rival – sends the Western Conference final to Petersburg with Igor Nikitin’s men strongly placed. Today there was a goal in each period to secure a second home win.

SKA once again outshot its opponent but found it tough to beat CSKA goalie Ilya Sorokin. The Russian international made 36 stops in the first game and followed it with 25 more on Saturday to frustrate one of the most dangerous offenses in the KHL and backstop his team to another victory.

Photo: 30.03.19. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Playoffs. CSKA (Moscow) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

As in the first game, SKA made the brighter start. However, the visitor took the first penalty of the game – Alexei Byvaltsev called for slashing on Sorokin after a good chance went begging – and CSKA took advantage of the power play. Mikhail Grigorenko’s wild shot was going wide but Kirill Kaprizov redirected it on target. Igor Shestyorkin stopped the first attempt but was powerless to prevent the young forward tucking away the rebound.

The second period became bogged down in center ice for long periods and there were fewer scoring chances at either end. Meanwhile, a string of minor penalties for both teams disrupted the rhythm of the game. But CSKA doubled its lead in the 37th minute – albeit after a moment of controversy. On the face of it, things were clear enough: Nikita Nesterov slung the puck to the center from the left boards and Greg Scott redirected the airborne disk into the net. However, it wasn’t immediately obvious whether the Canadian forward had used his hand or his stick to steer the puck to its target: the point of contact was high on the stick, between his two hands but, crucially, not in contact with the glove.

Any frustration on SKA’s part was quickly channelled into a reply: Linden Vey’s penalty handed the initiative to the visitor and SKA’s power play clicked for the first time in the series. Dinar Khafizullin quarterbacked the play from the blue line; a feed out to Nikita Gusev in the left-hand circle set up a one-timer that ripped past Sorokin to throw the game back in the balance as we reached the second intermission.

SKA continued to dominate possession in the final frame but, once again, struggled to seriously test Sorokin. CSKA, meanwhile, found the cutting edge with a breakaway goal midway through the session. Andrei Svetlakov’s clearance was acrobatically brought under control by Maxim Mamin, who surged forward and set up Ivan Telegin for a close-range finish. That was Telegin’s first playoff goal for three years; the center’s rugged contribution to the cause for club and country has many qualities but scoring is rarely prominent among them.

Sorokin had one more big save to make, doing the splits to deny Maxim Karpov, but once again SKA was left ruing its inability to seriously extend the CSKA goalie. This result makes it 2-0 to CSKA in the series, secures a sixth victory from six games this season for the Moscow team and extends its winning streak against SKA to nine games. For Ilya Vorobyov, it’s high time to snap that sequence and get his team back into this series.

Ilya Vorobyov, head coach, SKA

Why is SKA having problems scoring in 5-on-5 play?

Mostly because CSKA isn’t allowing goals. Nonetheless, we still need to keep working at it, with all of our blood and sweat.

What was the thinking behind Kuzmenko replacing Kruchinin?

That was a normal switch of players. In general, we’ll think about our roster. It’s hard to see Tokranov being fit to play. As for Datsyuk, I’m not ready to answer questions about that right now.

Why did Maltsev go to the first line?

He’s a powerful player and he’s playing well.

Igor Nikitin, head coach, CSKA

It was a hard-fought victory, just like in the first game.

What changed compared with the first game?

We tried to inject some energy, to skate better and to take the initiative. There are no surprises at this stage, we’re dealing with two skilled teams. Whoever is playing with the puck has the advantage.

I’m not going to talk about the referees. We’ve played hard on defense all season.

Do you think CSKA played more attacking hockey in the regular season?

We were playing against different teams then. Now, in the playoffs, we’re up against classy opponents.


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