Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Lokomotiv escaped a series sweep at the hands of Jokerit when it edged a 4-3 verdict in game four and kept itself alive. The Finns will have another chance to finish it off on Monday when the teams meet again in Helsinki. SKA became the first team to secure its place in the next round – but it needed a goal in the third period of overtime to record its fourth win over Vityaz.

Loko stays in the race

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 4 Jokerit Helsinki 3 (0-1, 2-0, 2-2)

Jokerit leads the series 3-1

The Finns came into this game ready to wrap up the series and confirm their progress to the Conference semi-final. That confidence was not taken solely from the 3-0 score in the series, but also from the comprehensive manner of Jokerit’s performances to date. A 14-1 aggregate scoreline highlighted the gap between the teams in those opening games.

Photo: 07.03.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Playoffs. Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) - Jokerit (Helsinki)

Despite the team’s poor results, head coach Mike Pelino wasn’t interested in making big changes. He stuck with the same personnel and contented himself with tweaking his lines ahead of game four. Opposite number Lauri Marjamaki made two changes, bringing in defenseman Oliver Lauridsen and Aleksi Halme.

Lokomotiv made a bright start and early in the game the visitor found itself killing a 3-on-5 situation. However, the Finnish defense was solid and Janis Kalnins continued to impress between the piping. Gradually, though, the game moved into a familiar pattern, with Jokerit taking the initiative and having the better of the play. Late in the opening frame Antti Pihlstrom’s interception in his own zone launched a counterattack that Marko Anttila converted for the opening goal; Lokomotiv had that sinking feeling again.

This time, though, Pelino saw a strong response from his team. The start of the second period saw Loko take control of the game. Another power play came and went but it wasn’t long before the host got its reward. Nikita Cherepanov tied the scores with an effort from the blue line. Jokerit fluffed a good chance on the counter and immediately play returned to Kalnins net where Artur Kayumov found a way through to make it 2-1 at the second intermission.

That was the first time Lokomotiv had led at any stage in this series and the advantage increased when Yegor Averin made it 3-1 early in the third. But there would be no comfortable conclusion for the home team. Instead, Jokerit hit back hard as it looked to wrap up a series sweep tonight and enjoy a long rest ahead of the next round.

For a time it looked as though Jokerit’s pressure would amount to little, with Yaroslavl’s counterattacks creating greater menace. But in the end, the pressure told when Peter Regin pulled goal back in the 54th minute. Now it was game on, but indiscipline hurt the Finns. Another 5-on-3 power play for Lokomotiv proved decisive, with Stephane Da Costa grabbing the all-important fourth goal. That was not quite the end; Henrik Haapala pulled one back in the last minute to set up a few anxious seconds as the Railwaymen got it over the line. But the siren sounded on a home win that keeps the series alive – at least until the teams meet again in Finland in 48 hours time.

The longest game

Vityaz Moscow Region 2 SKA St. Peterburg 3 3OT (1-1, 0-0, 1-1, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1)

SKA wins the series 4-0

The longest game of the 2020 Gagarin Cup playoffs ended with SKA becoming the first team to book its place in the second round after Lukas Bengtsson’s goal completed a sweep of Vityaz.

Photo: 07.03.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Playoffs. Vityaz (Moscow Region) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

The Swedish defenseman struck in the 114th minute, snapping a 2-2 tie and securing SKA the victory that takes it into the Conference semi-finals once again. Bengtsson struck on the first power play of the extras, firing home a one-timer off Anton Burdasov’s feed to settle the game and the series.

SKA went into this game lifted by a comfortable win here on Thursday and knew that one more success would end the series as quickly as possible. And the Army Men wasted no time in taking the lead. The visitor’s first meaningful attack ended with Anton Belov’s point shot beating Ilya Ezhov. The home bench challenged the play, citing goalie interference, but the review determined that Lukas Bengtsson’s contact with Ezhov was due to a push from home defenseman Jakub Jerabek. SKA had the lead.

Down but not out, Vityaz responded late in the first period with a power play goal from Ville Lajunen. The Finn fired home from the top of the circle after a Jerabek feed presented him with a chance to tie the scores. And before the intermission, Svyatoslav Grebenshchikov dinged the crossbar as Vityaz came close to snatching the lead.

The home team did get in front early in the third period with a fine goal. Alexei Makeyev brought the play into SKA’s zone and sent a no-look pass onto the stick of Alexei Byvaltsev. The former SKA forward then sent a return pass to Makeyev, who got in front of Belov to steer the puck home and make it 2-1. It was goal worthy of winning any game, but on this occasion it would not be quite enough. Sergei Plotnikov tied the scores with six minutes left to play, converting a Evgeny Ketov feed to take the game into overtime.

The extras turned out to be extensive. The first period of overtime saw SKA have the bulk of the play, while Vityaz conjured a few dangerous counterattacks. In the second, Vladimir Tkachyov was denied by the crossbar when the end seemed imminent, while Evgeny Artyukhin came closest to settling it for the home. Midway through the third additional frame, Burdasov drew a superb save from Ezhov with the former SKA goalie extending his leg and getting a skate in the way to close the door after the forward threatened to deke his way through. Then Tkachyov went close before Bengtsson delivered the knock-out blow.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Related clubs

Vityaz (Moscow Region) Vityaz (Moscow Region)
Jokerit (Helsinki) Jokerit (Helsinki)
Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
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