(Lokomotiv leads the series 1-0)
Sometimes, the playoffs throw up a clash between two teams that know each other’s game — and how to cancel it out. So it proved when CSKA and Lokomotiv began their Western Conference semi-final series in Moscow. The teams met four times in regular season, and even though the Army Men won three of them there was relatively little in it. The most recent of those encounters went to overtime before CSKA claimed a 3-2 verdict and all four games produced a relatively miserly 17 goals in total.
With the addition pressure of playoff hockey and the inflated price of any error, it was always likely that this series would — at least at times — be a battle of attrition. Game one certainly fit that bill, producing a tough and evenly-matched struggle with goals, and even scoring chances, at a premium. The first period set the tone, with the teams having an almost equal share of possession and territory and the key difference being Lokomotiv’s greater willingness to bang shots at goal. The Railwaymen had 29 attempts in the opening session but could only get 10 of them on target as CSKA worked hard to block incoming pucks and keep Loko to the outside.
Things began to change in the second, with play moving away from extended battles for possession on the boards. CSKA began to have the better of the play — and there was more play to enjoy — and by the 27th minute Lokomotiv head coach Andrei Skabelka was sufficiently concerned to call a time-out and get his players back to basics. However, the best chance of the frame fell to the visitor, with Vladimir Tkachyov’s shot rebounding kindly for Rushan Rafikov. However, the defenseman’s effort fell wide of the mark.
Early in the third, Loko survived a second PK of the evening and at last, midway through the final frame, the visitor got the opening goal. Like much of the evening’s action, it started on the boards when Andre Petersson won possession and threaded a pass for Korshkov at the back door. It took two attempts for Loko’s leading regular season goalscorer to beat Johansson, but at last the deadlock was broken. And it wasn’t just Loko opening its account: that was Korshkov’s first goal of these playoffs
That wasn’t the end of the action. With time running out, CSKA almost received a gift-wrapped goal when Eddie Pasquale’s mishit clearance went straight to Konstantin Okulov’s stick. However, the goalie recovered to get in front of the shot. And there were more anxious moments for Skabelka’s team in the closing moments as Johansson was replaced with an extra attacker and Pasquale denied Maxim Shalunov and Mat Robinson. Then, with 30 seconds left, Mikhail Belyayev put the issue beyond doubt when he pounced on a defensive error, stole the puck and scored into the empty net to put the outsider ahead in the series.