(Dynamo leads the series 2-1)
Once Dmitry Kagarlitsky was a Severstal star. The much-travelled forward had four seasons in Cherepovets and hit the 40-point mark in three of them. Today, though, he was the Steelmen’s heartbreaker, snatching a tying goal for Dynamo three seconds from the hooter.
That’s how close Severstal, the outsider in this series, was to securing a 2-1 lead. And don’t forget, while the league rankings have this as third against sixth, in reality Dynamo’s record after the regular season was better than SKA’s. Arguably, therefore, Andrei Razin’s team is up against the second strongest team in the West.
On the evidence so far, though, this might be the most evenly-matched pair of the opening round. Game one could hardly have been tighter, settled by a single goal; game two saw Severstal hit back with a 5-2 victory. And, as the action moved to Cherepovets, game three was another cagey affair. As in Moscow, post season in the north of Russia began with two goalless periods. Dynamo made the livelier start, and only the crossbar prevented Alexander Kucheryavenko from giving the visitor an early lead. And the Muscovites continued to have the better of the opening frame, without finding a way past the impressive Vladislav Podyapolsky.
In the second, things calmed down a little, but there were still big chances at both ends. Podyapolsky came up big to deny a couple of solo rushes from Oscar Lindberg and Vadim Shipachyov, while Ivan Bocharov gobbled up a Vadim Kudako shot after the Severstal man was left all alone in front of goal. Later, Adam Almquist was presented with a wide open net, but Vyacheslav Kulyomin got back in time to block his effort and keep the scoreboard blank.
In the 48th minute the deadlock was broken at last. Severstal got the goal when Jacob Berglund potted the rebound after Yegor Morozov’s angled shot was parried by Bocharov. Moments later, Podyapolsky added Dmitrij Jaskin to his list of forwards denied and time was beginning to run out for Dynamo. However, in the last minute, with Bocharov already a spectator, the Blue-and-Whites launched a final assault. Andrei Sergeyev fired the puck in from the point, Jaskin flicked it across the face of the net and Kagarlitsky arrived, triumphant, to fire it home and force overtime.
The extras continued at a lively tempo, with neither side interested in relying on defense and opposition errors to decide the outcome. Each team had opportunities on the power play, but it was already back to full strength when the winning goal arrived seconds before the end of the first sudden death period. Dynamo engineered an odd-man rush with Andrei Mironov and Daniil Tarasov. The pair exchanged passes, and Mironov’s shot was half stopped by Podyapolsky, only for Tarasov to follow up and touch the puck over the line to restore his team’s lead in the series.
(SKA leads the series 3-0)
A power play goal from Linden Vey moved SKA to within one game of sweeping its first-round playoff series against Dinamo Minsk. Vey struck after 18 minutes of overtime to snap a 3-3 tie and give the Army Men a 3-0 lead in the series.
SKA got an early lead in this one, with Artyom Shvets-Rogovoi firing home from between the hash marks after good work on the slot from Emil Galimov. But Dinamo was in no mood to let the visitor have it easy. The first period was hard-fought throughout, with Minsk’s physical game ruffling some SKA feathers. While most of the stats were even, the home team had a big advantage in hits (11-3) and face-off wins (11-4), confirming that the outsider had no plans to make nice with its season on the line.
Galimov squandered a great chance to make it 2-0 midway through the opening frame. On a two-man rush, his wrist shot misfired and Minsk was reprieved. However, the forward redeemed himself in the second frame when he got his goal. Admittedly, it was Malte Stromwall who made this one, driving forward into Dinamo territory, surging between two opponents and bearing down on the net. Dominik Furch was forced to commit himself, and the Swede served up a dish for Galimov to lift into the roof of the net.
At that point, it seemed that Dinamo’s hard work might be in vain. Alexander Samonov was forced into one big save, but moments later Alexei Protas steamed onto Shane Prince’s feed and wired a wrister from the right-hand circle as the visitor’s defense parted before him. And the home team got another big boost when Ivan Morozov’s illegal check to the head of an opponent saw him removed from the game. It took all of six seconds for Minsk to tie the scores: Prince won the face-off, the puck went back to Brennan Menell and Pavel Varfolomeyev peeled off into space before rifling home the defenseman’s diagonal feed.
SKA began the third period with the bulk of that major penalty to kill, and after taking care of that business the Army Men caught a break and got a power play of their own when Protas fouled. Just 27 seconds later, the visitor was back in front after Igor Ozhiganov’s precise effort from the deep slot evaded Furch and ripped into the net.
However, that was not enough to win it. With less than five minutes left, Dinamo levelled the scores once again and forced the action into overtime. Denis Mosalyov provided the distraction on the slot and Ilya Shinkevich’s point shot found its way into the net to make it 3-3.
In the extras, though, Dinamo’s discipline let it down. Initially competitive, the Bison ran into penalty trouble in the second half of the first period. When Rob Klinkhammer followed Zack Mitchell into the box in the 79th minute, the home team’s fate was sealed. A 5-on-3 power play was too good a chance for SKA to turn down, and Vey delivered the decisive blow and earn SKA its 100th victory in KHL playoff action. The Army Men are the first to reach that landmark, although Ak Bars could match it with a win at Torpedo tomorrow.