CSKA wins the series 4-0
The defending champion joins SKA in the Western Conference semi-finals after wrapping up its series against Torpedo in four games. Once again, though, Igor Nikitin’s team needed overtime in Nizhny Novgorod after battling from 0-2 down to save the game in regulation.
Home head coach David Nemirovsky stuck with the same team that ran the Army Men so close on Friday, while Nikitin had two changes in his line-up, bringing in defenseman Artyom Blazhiyevsky and forward Alexander Popov as part of his familiar rotation of the line-up.
In two of the three previous games, CSKA made a fast start and took an early lead. Today, the Army Men looked to repeat that but despite having the better of the opening exchanges the visitor could not find an early goal. Instead, Torpedo came back into the game and the first period finished goalless.
In the middle frame, CSKA got a chance to move in front when Charles Genoway took the first penalty of the game. However, the Army Men failed to capitalize and then had to kill a 3-on-5 situation at the other end. By the time the teams were back to equal strength, Torpedo found a way to open the scoring and it was none other than Genoway who did the damage in the 39th minute. Damir Zhafyarov brought play into the CSKA zone and dropped the puck off for the defenseman to advance and shoot past Ilya Sorokin from between the hash marks.
The third period started with a second goal for the host. This time it came on the power play, with Zhafyarov involved again as he fired in a shot that Sorokin could not hold. The rebound dropped for Anton Shenfeld and he knocked the puck across the face of the net for Jordan Schroeder to score.
CSKA almost had an instant response when Linden Vey found the net, but the goal was ruled out and the resultant skirmish saw the Canadian and Daniil Ilyin sent to cool their heels. During that passage of 4-on-4 play, Sorokin came up with a game-saving stop to deny Shane Prince in a one-on-one.
Once the teams were back at full strength, Mat Robinson got CSKA on the scoreboard at last. But the real drama was still to come. With less than three minutes left, the Army Men saved the game. Alexei Marchenko whipped a superb pass to the back door and Maxim Shalunov got there ahead of the defense to tie it up at 2-2.
Into overtime, and Torpedo’s cause suffered an early blow when Sergei Zborovsky took a tripping call at the start of the extras. This time, CSKA’s power play delivered. Anton Slepyshev extended his productive streak to nine games with a helper as Kirill Kaprizov’s one-timer put the defending champion through to the next round.
Series tied at 1-1
Last season, Spartak caused a minor sensation by jumping to a 2-0 lead in its series against SKA, but fell to a big fightback from the Petersburg team. This time around, the Red-and-Whites are seeking to reverse that storyline. This Moscow derby series began with back-to-back wins for Dynamo, but Spartak has hit back with successive wins of its own to tie it up at 2-2.
Despite winning its previous game, Spartak suffered a nightmare start and fell 0-3 behind inside five minutes. As a result, there were changes to the line-up. Goalie Julius Hudacek was left off the roster altogether: Nikita Bespalov started with Pavel Khomchenko as back-up. On defense, Tobias Viklund came in to replace Yakov Rylov; the Swede made his first appearance since Feb. 23.
Dynamo, too, shook things up. Alexander Yeryomenko returned to the net after winning the first two games and sitting out Friday’s defeat. Teemu Pulkkinen and Maxim Afinogenov returned to the roster while Miks Indrasis, Ivan Igumnov and Andrei Alexeyev missed out.
The first half of this game was determined by Spartak’s special teams. The host went ahead midway through the first period on the first PP of the afternoon. Robin Hanzl’s no-look feed across the face of the net found Artyom Fyodorov at the back door and he gave Yeryomenko no chance. A couple of minutes later Ilya Zubov doubled the lead with a shot from the blue line.
Then, early in the middle frame, Spartak stifled the Dynamo PP, killing two penalties in quick succession to preserve its two-goal advantage. Then, when the Blue-and-Whites found themselves reduced to three players, Spartak cashed in. Zubov crashed in another shot from distance and Kaspars Daugavins was ready on the slot to tuck away the rebound and extend the home lead.
After Friday’s game, 0-3 is something of a resonant scoreline. Now it was Dynamo’s turn to try to emulate Spartak’s fightback. The third period saw the visitor get close to saving itself before running out of time. First, Vadim Shipachyov got a power play goal, shooting home from a tight angle after a shot cannoned back off the boards. The visitor built up a big advantage in terms of shots and territory, helped by a string of minor penalties on Spartak, but could not close the gap further and began to lose its own discipline in the latter half of the frame. There was still time for a late goal from Andre Petersson, the Swede stuffing the puck into Bespalov’s net amid a crowd scene on the crease. But with just 19 seconds left to find a third, time was always against Dynamo and Oleg Znarok’s team held on for the win. Now we face, in effect, a three-game showdown starting on Tuesday at the VTB Arena.