Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Lokomotiv and CSKA wrapped up series sweeps to advance to the Western semi-finals. Loko won 4-1 against Jokerit, a ‘road’ win on home ice to finish that series. The Army Men, too, enjoyed familiar surroundings as they were hosted by their tenants, Spartak, and secured a 3-1 victory to advance.

Loko steams past Jokerit

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

(Lokomotiv wins the series 4-0)

Lokomotiv got revenge for last year’s playoff defeat against Jokerit, sweeping the Finns to move into the Western Conference semi-final. Twelve months ago, the Railwaymen lost out in six games before the season was abandoned due to the pandemic. This time around, though, with every game played in Yaroslavl due to on-going COVID restrictions in Finland, Loko prevailed in some style and condemned Jokerit to only a second four-game loss in the KHL.

Photo: 09.03.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Playoffs. Jokerit (Helsinki) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

Drinking in the last chance saloon, Jokerit needed a big start to this battle if it was to reverse the momentum in the series and extend the contest to at least a fifth game. And it almost happened. The Finns were dangerous from the first minutes, with Jordan Schroeder testing Eddie Pasquale early on before Alexei Marchenko took a penalty for the home team. There were more worrying moments for Loko on that PK, with Saku Maenalanen close to opening the scoring.

However, the notional visitor soon stabilized and took the lead with its first power play chance of the evening. Pavel Kraskovsky’s pass from behind the net set up Marchenko for a one-timer that whistled into the net midway through the opening frame.

Goals have been hard to come by for Jokerit in this series, with the Finns failing to score in the opening two games before losing 3-2 in game three. Today, at last, the offense got a kind bounce. It followed a Jonathan Pudas shot that dinged the piping and bounced onto Eddie Pasquale’s back and into the net. Lokomotiv challenged the play, concerned that Niklas Jensen or Brian O’Neill might have impeded the goalie as they chased the rebound. However, the video review awarded the goal and cost the Railwaymen their time out.

The visitor then had a power play chance but was unable to force its way into the lead for the first time in the series. Instead, Lokomotiv demonstrated how to take advantage of an extra man when its second PP led to a second goal. The home team needed just five seconds to punish Tommi Kivisto’s high sticking offense, with Yegor Korshkov winning the face-off and Teemu Pulkkinen firing home his fourth goal of the series. Ironically, Pulkkinen began his pro career with Jokerit when the team played in the Finnish Liiga.

The third period saw Korshkov complete a hat-trick of helpers to see Loko over the line. First, his shot was delicately redirected into the net by Andre Petersson in the 54th minute; a video review ruled out any suggestion that the Swede’s stick was high. And a couple of minutes later, he was involved as Vladimir Tkachyov added a fourth to wrap up both game and series.

Army Men march into round two

Spartak Moscow 1 CSKA Moscow 3 (1-0, 0-1, 0-2)

(CSKA wins the series 4-0)

CSKA completed a series sweep of Moscow rival Spartak — and has now won its last three playoff series without dropping a game. That run goes back to the 2019 final, when the Army Men routed Avangard, and includes last year’s flawless advance past Torpedo before the pandemic brought a premature end to the action.

Photo: 09.03.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Playoffs. Spartak (Moscow) - CSKA (Moscow)

You have to go back to April 7, 2019, for the last time CSKA last a post season game — that was game six of the Conference Final against SKA. Spartak, meanwhile, went down in six last year against Dynamo after making a return to the playoffs, and was having a hard time against another Moscow team this time around. The key problem was scoring: the Red-and-Whites had just one goal in three games so far and needed to improve on that sorry statistic fast if they were to extend their season.

Oleg Znarok’s team did exactly that, and inside three minutes. An early power play gave Spartak its chance and Jori Lehtera advanced down the right before slipping a pass inside towards Martin Bakos. The puck bounced and bobbled on its way and Bakos did well to steer past Lars Johansson, who was disconcerted by the disk’s unpredictable flight.

The Slovak’s appearance on the roster was evidence of Spartak’s need for rapid changes. He hadn’t played since picking up an injury on Feb. 25, and took the place of Lukas Radil, the team’s leading scorer in the regular season. However, after that bright start the game steadily reverted to a pattern familiar from the rest of the series: evenly-contested, but with CSKA far more clinical when it counted.

After a close-fought opening frame, a penalty on Lehtera early in the second gave CSKA its big chance. The Army Men set up position in the Spartak zone and steadily applied the pressure before Anton Slepyshev dropped deep to receive a pass from Mat Robinson at the top of the circle. Slepyshev’s one-timer did the rest, squeezing inside Julius Hudacek’s near post to tie the game.

Spartak responded by gaining more control of the play, but was unable to convert that into more opportunities to test Johansson, even after the Swede dislodged the goal frame and took a penalty for his troubles. But, with the game tied after 40 minutes, at least home team was in with a chance of prolonging its season in the third.

The final session was tense, with Spartak well aware of the consequences of gifting CSKA a go-ahead goal but also conscious of the need to get a victory from somewhere. However, it was the Army Men that got in front midway through the frame. Andrei Loktionov refused to allow the Spartak defense to get the puck away from behind the net and eventually won possession. Loktionov’s pass found Brendan Leipsic, whose shot from between the hash marks was too good for Hudacek.

Spartak made one last push to try to save the game and the series, but to no avail. The final gamble, with Hudacek called to the bench, backfired as Ivan Telegin fired an empty net goal in the last minute to seal CSKA’s progress.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Related clubs

Jokerit (Helsinki) Jokerit (Helsinki)
Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl) Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)
Spartak (Moscow) Spartak (Moscow)
CSKA (Moscow) CSKA (Moscow)
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