(Dynamo leads the series 3-1)
Dynamo defenseman Andrei Sergeyev enjoyed one of the best days of his career, blasting his first KHL hat-trick as the Blue-and-Whites moved to within one win of progressing to the Western Conference semi-finals.
The 29-year-old, who moved to Moscow from Neftekhimik during the summer, has over 500 KHL appearances in a career that also includes spells with CSKA and Ugra, but few have been as memorable as this one. He already proved his worth going forward, collecting assists in the previous two games after a purple patch at the end of the regular season saw him collect 9 (3+6) points in his last five appearances. But this was a whole new level.
Alexeyev got his first of the game midway through the first period. Dynamo was on the power play, and just as Severstal came back to full strength, Vadim Shipachyov fed the defenseman on the left-hand dot and Alexeyev’s one-timer ripped past Dmitry Shugayev to open the scoring. Goal number two arrived four minutes later, on another power play, fired home from the top of the right-hand circle.
However, Severstal had threats of its own, with Ivan Bocharov saved by his post in between those two goals. And, in the second period, the Steelmen erased all of Alexeyev’s hard work with two goals in the first 71 seconds. First, Andrei Alexeyev picked up an assist as Yegor Morozov scored from close range after Bocharov blocked a shot from the boards. Then, within a minute, Vladislav Kodola tied the game when he fired home a Shawn Lalonde pass.
But that man Sergeyev was in unstoppable form and he completed his hat-trick to restore Dynamo’s lead late in the frame. Shipachyov, making his 200th appearance for the Muscovites, got his second assist of the night and collected his 100th point in the playoffs with a sliderule pass across the face of Shugayev’s net for Sergeyev to wire an angled shot inside the near post.
After that third goal, Severstal ramped up the pressure as it looked to tie the game once more. Bocharov had to neutralize a two-man rush, then he was saved by the post when Makar Khabarov’s wrister got past him. But in the third period, Dynamo continued to look for more goals and eventually put the outcome beyond doubt in the closing minutes. First, Dmitrij Jaskin’s empty net goal saw Sergeyev add an assist to his treble while Shipachyov collected his third helper of the game. Then, in the final minute, Magnus Paajarvi Svensson redirected a Yegor Zaitsev effort and left Shugayev clutching at thin air.
The series continues in Moscow on Wednesday, with Dynamo looking for one more victory to progress.
(SKA leads the series 3-1)
The biggest crowd of the KHL season — 13,056 — gathered in Minsk to see Dinamo stay alive in its series against SKA. In a year when arenas have been hit by caps on the number of tickets that can be sold, Belarus raised the permitted capacity to 80% and was rewarded with a fervent atmosphere as the Bison battled to save the season.
And those fans were rewarded by a courageous performance from their heroes, with Minsk coming from behind to grab a verdict that takes the action back to St. Petersburg on Wednesday with SKA unable to complete the job.
In a series full of goals — 23 in three games prior to this one — the first surprise was a low-scoring encounter. The first period was evenly-fought, and only a goal from Andrei Kuzmenko late in the frame separated the teams at the first intermission. Kuzmenko, who scored twice in game one of this series, finished off a quick breakaway when he potted the rebound from a Lukas Bengtsson effort in the 18th minute.
Dinamo was not about to back off, though. The start of the second period saw Minsk raise its game and after Shane Prince went close, the home team got a power play when Vasily Podkolzin fouled Rob Klinkhammer. The home team duly took advantage, with Artyom Demkov finishing off a well worked move that also involved Brennan Menell and Shane Prince.
The chances kept coming. Moments later, Denis Mosalyov hit the post and the teams continued to trade attacks in an absorbing encounter. Late in the frame, tempers spilled over. Kuzmenko got a minor penalty for kneeing and, in the aftermath, there were roughing calls for SKA’s Dinar Khafizullin and Dinamo’s Roman Gorbunov. The latter got a double minor, meaning Minsk had a two-minute 4-on-3 power play followed by a 4-on-5 penalty kill, but neither team could force a goal.
Midway through the third, Dinamo snapped the 1-1 tie thanks to Mosalyov. Again, Menell was involved, firing in a point shot that deflected up into the air. Mosalyov tracked the rebound and stuffed the puck into the net — amid angry protests from the visitor. The SKA bench challenged the call, claiming interference on goalie Alexander Samonov, but a video review ruled it a good goal and left the Army Men chasing the game with 12 minutes left to play.
To make things that little bit harder, Valery Bragin burned his time-out with that unsuccessful challenge and, as Dinamo fought hard to close out the game there was no opportunity for SKA’s head coach to plot one last assault in detail. Instead, apart from one dangerous redirect from Kuzmenko, Dominik Furch was largely untroubled in the home net despite the Army Men’s attempts to keep the Bison locked into their zone. Solid forechecking from Craig Woodcroft’s team kept danger at bay, and even a late penalty on Adam Almquist could not give SKA a way to save the game.