Andy Potts Andy Potts
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After 40 minutes of Monday’s game in Helsinki, everything was going right for the home team. A 2-1 lead on the night converted into a series win in five games and the prospect of a second-round match-up with SKA was close enough to touch. But the visitor rallied in the final frame, scoring three unanswered goals to win the game and take the action back to Yaroslavl with a the deficit down to 2-3.

Da Costa’s milestone keeps Loko in the fight

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

Jokerit leads the series 3-2

Lokomotiv came from behind to keep this series alive – and now has the chance to draw level on home ice when the teams Wednesday in Yaroslavl. After three heavy losses at the start of this series, the Railwaymen have belatedly got their playoff campaign back on track and followed up Saturday’s 4-3 win with a hard-fought win on the road in Finland.

Photo: 09.03.20. KHL Championship 2019-2020. Playoffs. Jokerit (Helsinki) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

Stephane Da Costa’s 100th KHL goal proved to be the game-winner in a rollercoaster of an encounter at the Hartwall Arena. The French international got 61 of them for CSKA and also had a season with Avtomobilist, but today’s effort early in the third period could well prove one of the most important of his five campaigns in the league. It completed a turnaround for Lokomotiv in the game and – potentially – continues the Railwaymen’s transformation of the series.

Early in the game, a penalty on Veli-Matti Savinainen gave a taste of what was to come. Jokerit tamed the Lokomotiv power play with relatively little alarm, but the home team would go on to take frequent minors, disrupting its game and making it hard for Lauri Marjamaki’s team to gain momentum. Although Jokerit posed the first serious goal threat of the game when Steve Moses hit the post in the seventh minute, it was Lokomotiv that got the first goal. Pavel Kudryavtsev outmuscled Alex Grant on the blue line and got a free run down the left channel before beating Janis Kalnins from the face-off dot.

However, the home team was eager to get the series done on the night and turned the scoreline upside down with two quick goals. First, Antti Pihlstrom got the crowd back into the game with the tying goal. He took advantage of a deflected Ahti Oksanen shot and arrived at the back door to smash home the loose puck. A couple of minutes later, it was 2-1 following a goal of classic simplicity. Peter Regin played the diagonal pass from blue line to blue line, Jesse Joensuu took the puck into the Lokomotiv zone and crashed a shot past Ilya Konovalov’s glove to give the host the lead at the first intermission.

However, Lokomotiv was not about to roll over. The visitor forced Kalnins into a double save at the start of the second period, a statement of intent upon which it could not immediately deliver. The middle frame was light on scoring chances with the Finns happy to take the pace out of the game and allow the clock to play for them.

But the final stanza saw Loko seize the initiative. Two quick goals early in the frame saw the game turned upside down once again. A penalty on Mikko Lehtonen put Jokerit under pressure, but the home PK seemed to have done its job thanks to one huge save from Kalnins by the time the defenseman was ready to return. However, the gate to the box had barely closed behind Lehtonen when Grigory Denisenko got the tying goal. Kalnins, so impressive a minute earlier, had every cause to be frustrated by this one, a speculative effort that took more than one deflection as it bobbled its way into the net.

Then came another penalty that was barely killed before Lokomotiv took the lead. This time Niklas Jensen was the sinner and, by the time his tariff was spent, the visitor had established itself in the Jokerit zone. Anton Lander was making his presence felt on the slot, Kalnins had to rely on radar to track the puck’s movement from one circle to another and Stephane Da Costa buried a Vladimir Tkachyov feed to put the Railwaymen in front once more.

Jokerit had chances to save the game: Henrik Haapala was lively around Konovalov’s net and Regin hit the post as the home team tried to convert a power play late in the game. But it wasn’t to be and Lokomotiv sealed the verdict when Artur Kayumov produced a wicked wrister that gave Kalnins no chance and ended Jokerit’s hopes on the night.

Now the action returns to Yaroslavl with Lokomotiv looking to draw level in the series. So far in KHL history, only one team has managed to win a playoff series after trailing 0-3; suddenly Loko has the belief that it can be the second to achieve that feat.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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