CSKA leads the series 2-0
Forty-eight hours earlier, CSKA defeated Torpedo 3-0 to make an assured start to its Gagarin Cup defense. Today, proving it was no fluke, Igor Nikitin’s team repeated that scoreline. Ilya Sorokin continued in goal and increased his record tally of playoff shut-outs to 17 after he made 19 more saves in this game. Torpedo once again found it hard to generate offense and faces an uphill battle as the series moves to Nizhny Novgorod on Friday.
The pattern of play was not dissimilar to the first game either. Alert to Torpedo’s wish to assert its authority early in proceedings, CSKA again looked for a fast start. There was a blip when Sergei Kalinin took a first-minute penalty, but the home PK did its job with a minimum of fuss and once back to equal strength the Army Men steadily assumed control of the game. The first goal wasn’t long in coming; Nikita Nesterov’s long pass from his own blue line sprang the Torpedo defense and Pavel Karnaukhov skated through all alone to open the scoring.
Torpedo responded with a couple of half chances, but Sorokin gobbled up attempts from Damir Zhafyarov and Drew Shore. Then Shore found himself in the box and CSKA duly converted its first power play of the game when Anton Slepyshev served up a dish for Mikhail Grigorenko to make it 2-0 in the 15th minute. Frustratingly for the visitor, it was playing competitive hockey in the first period. Torpedo did a good job of limiting CSKA’s scoring chances and enjoyed plenty of time with the puck, However, it could not find a way to solve Sorokin and, in truth, struggled to turn possession into good looks at the home goalie. And thus, as the hooter sounded, David Nemirovsky’s team faced a difficult task to find a way back into the game.
That task was even harder after the middle session. Not because CSKA added to its lead, but because the home team could diligently extinguish those sparks of hope. Torpedo was limited to just four shots at Sorokin and now it was the Army Men that enjoyed the lion’s share of the attacking play. Even the third period, with Torpedo looking to force the pace, was always evenly matched. The visitor found it hard to generate good chances and could not even get goalie Andrei Tikhomirov off the ice until the dying seconds. It rather summed up the visitor’s day when its final surge saw Sorokin stop the puck, Slepyshev pick up the scraps and Kirill Kaprizov head away to score into the empty net.
Dynamo leads the series 2-0
For much of this game, Spartak seemed set fair to tie the series. Before the action began, many expected this Moscow derby to go the distance as two familiar foes battled it out once again. And this game, for long periods, showed why there isn’t so much to choose between the teams. But, instead of Spartak holding on for a victory that would tie it up at 1-1, Dynamo produced a late surge to turn this one upside down and win it with three goals in the last four minutes.
Game one of the series was a bruising affair, generating 125 penalty minutes and a four-game ban for Spartak’s Maxim Goncharov as Dynamo picked up a convincing 5-1 victory. For the Red-and-Whites, the pain was not just physical; a heavy derby loss demanded a big response and Oleg Znarok’s team worked hard to provide just that. Goncharov was just one of four players dropped from the line-up and the visitor started on the front foot.
The strategy paid off. Ansel Galimov, a former Dynamo player, opened the scoring in the fifth minute and Spartak continued to enjoy the better of the play throughout the first period. At the start of the second, the Red-and-Whites were close to extending their lead but, instead, got hit on a counter midway through the session. Goalscorer Galimov was guilty of an error in his own zone, gifting the puck to Vadim Shipachyov, and the top scorer in regular season capitalized to bring Dynamo level.
However, a penalty on Dynamo late in the session put a cloud over a good middle frame for the home team – and the cloud delivered its downpour at the start of the third when Patrik Hersley unleashed a thunderbolt to restore Spartak’s lead just as Kirill Lyamin stepped out of the box. Home coach Vladimir Krikunov had angry words for his team, Spartak looked to hold its lead until the bitter end and was doing a good job of keeping Dynamo at bay until ill-discipline put a hole in Znarok’s tactics.
Two penalties in the space of a minute presented Dynamo with a 5-on-3 advantage just as time seemed to be running out. Shipachyov was the man for the moment, converting the power play to tie the scores. The home crowd’s relief turned to delight 90 seconds later when Spartak was caught out changing on the fly and Andre Petersson raced through to make it 3-2. There was more to come. Mikhail Grigoryev scored into an empty net to put the game out of reach, but Robin Hanzl got a late consolation for Spartak with just six seconds on the clock. An empty gesture, or a warning shot as the action moves across Moscow? Game three on Friday will bring us some answers.