(CSKA Moscow leads the series 3-0)
Technically, this was CSKA’s first road game of the playoffs. However, when both teams share the same home arena, the sense of stepping into enemy territory is not quite so significant. And the Army Men did not miss a step as they marched to a third victory in this series to set up a potential sweep of its Moscow rival if it can win again on Tuesday.
The key difference in this series has been in front of the net. Spartak, despite being a good match for the regular season champion in most areas, has just one goal in three games to date. CSKA, meanwhile, is showing far greater composure when it gets a look at Julius Hudacek’s net and after scraping a 1-0 overtime verdict in the first game, romped to a 5-1 margin in the second and added three more here.
Oleg Znarok responded to his team’s lack of scoring by shuffling all his offensive combinations, with Maxim Tsyplakov moving up to the first line and Mikhail Kotlyarevsky returning to action after almost a month away. Opposite number Igor Nikitin made fewer changes, but gave Alexander Popov a rest and called up Nikita Korostelyov to the third line.
Both teams began at a high tempo, but even in the early stages the speed of CSKA’s decision making was striking. And it wasn’t long before the Army Men had the lead, with Anton Slepyshev and Pavel Karnaukhov pushing Spartak deep into its own territory and enabling Sergei Andronov to open the scoring. The Army Men looked to build on that breakthrough, but Spartak held firm and took some of the pace out of the game. Late in the opening session, the home team even got a power play chance, but ended up relieved that Andrei Svetlakov failed to punish a stray pass with a second goal.
The second period saw more penalty trouble for CSKA, but after Lars Johansson had difficulty keeping the Red-and-Whites at bay on their first power play, the second advantage offered relatively little. Even so, the home team took the initiative and enjoyed a 17-2 lead on the shot count in the middle frame — something very much out of context in the series so far.
However, that dominance did not bring goals and the third period began with Spartak straining too hard to get back into the game and running into penalty trouble of its own. After surviving with three men, the home team fell further behind when Maxim Shalunov scored for the third time in three games to take the game away from the host.
At that point, it was difficult to see a way back for the Red-and-Whites. Short of goals throughout this series, it seemed unlikely that Spartak could score twice in less than 15 minutes. And so it proved, with the only change arriving in the 57th minute when Korostelyov added a third to wrap up CSKA’s win.
(Lokomotiv leads the series 3-0)
After failing to score in its first two games of this series, Jokerit broke its duck at last and took Lokomotiv to overtime. However, that was not enough to escape a third loss in this series, leaving Lauri Marjamaki’s team on the brink of exiting the playoffs without registering a win.
For Lokomotiv, the first road game of the playoffs took place on home ice. Due to Finland’s coronavirus restrictions, Jokerit has to play in Russia, so Arena 2000 will host every game of this first-round series. The Finns did their best to make it a home-from-home, draping red-and-yellow flags over the tribunes and even setting up a cheerleader troupe to represent the team. Only the under-ice markings — and, of course, the local supporters from Yaroslavl — emphasized the distance between here and Helsinki.
However, that did not change Jokerit’s urgent need to improve its post season performance. Lokomotiv goalie Eddie Pasquale enjoyed back-to-back shut-outs as the Railwaymen steamed ahead in this series; a repeat in game three would see the Finns on the brink of exiting the playoffs at the first hurdle.
The early signs were not encouraging. Lokomotiv took an early lead when Denis Alexeyev won possession in the Jokerit zone and played a short pass for Mikhail Belyayev to rifle a shot under the bar. And late in the opening frame, Teemu Pulkkinen doubled the lead with a power play goal. In between, Loko dominated the game, outshooting Jokerit 18-4.
However, that pattern was reversed in the second period. Jokerit topped the shot count 19-4 and piled the pressure on Pasquale’s net. The goalie made a smart save to deny Antti Pihlstrom as he redirected Marko Anttila’s shot, but he was beaten for the first time in the series midway through the middle frame. Jordan Schroeder’ diagonal pass found Sami Lepisto at the point and the defenseman drilled home a trademark shot to make it 1-2.
Pasquale continued to come up big, making an important stop early in the third period to deny Niklas Jensen a tying goal. Then Jensen found a way past the goalie, flashing in a shot from the deep slot after Jesse Joensuu’s pass out from the corner. Jensen finished the regular season with goals in his last three appearances and today he produced one of his most important of the campaign.
However, it was not enough to turn the game around. Overtime saw Lokomotiv grab a third successive win thanks to Pulkkinen’s second of the afternoon. The Railwaymen created a decent number of scoring chances — power plays, long spells of pressure on the Jokerit net — before the Finn shot down his countrymen to open a 3-0 lead in the series.