(Dynamo leads the series 1-0)
The two clubs have plenty of playoff history: Dynamo’s first two Gagarin Cup triumphs involved victories over the Army Men along the way, while SKA’s victories in 2015 and 2017 followed series wins over the Blue-and-Whites at this stage of the playoffs. So, fans of both teams had reason to hope that success in this series might be a starting point for still greater glories come the end of April.
The opening frame was short on chances, with both teams taking a cautious approach in the early stages. However, when Michal Cajkovsky launched a shot that was blocked on its way from the blue line, there was a precursor of Dynamo’s tactics for the game. After a flurry of penalties midway the first period, the visitor got in front when a faceoff saw the puck moved back to Cajkovsky on the blue line and the Slovak defenseman thumped a slap shot past Alexander Samonov.
The rest of the first session brought two more SKA power plays, but there were few clear chances for the home team to tie the scores even though the Army Men spent plenty of time in Dynamo territory.
In the middle session, SKA stepped up the pace and began putting more and more pressure on Ivan Bocharov’s net. The home team fired in 15 shots on goal, but Bocharov had the answers to deny Malte Stromwall, Evgeny Ketov and Linden Vey before his team-mates doubled Dynamo’s lead. The goal came midway through the period and, much like the opener, it relied on brute force more than cunning interplay. Once again, it started from a faceoff and ended with a shot from the blue line; Andrei Sergeyev was the scorer this time.
SKA continued to press, and Bocharov remained alert, stifling a scramble on his crease after Lukas Bengtsson’s effort and closing out Vasily Podkolzin’s attempt at the near post. But there was no way back in the second period and it was clear that the home team needed a fast start after the intermission.
However, that fast start did not materialize. Instead, it was Dynamo that extended the lead. Once again, Cajkovsky was involved with another thumping shot from the blue line. This time, though, it was Oscar Lindberg who applied the finishing touch, beating Samonov at the second attempt to open a 3-0 lead that effectively put the game beyond the home team. Bocharov proved unable to secure his shut-out, though, with Bengtsson belatedly getting SKA on the scoreboard with a power play goal in the 56th minute. The Swede delivered the latest unstoppable point shot in a game dominated by power from the blue line.
That gave the home team a glimmer of hope, but it was a false dawn. No sooner had Samonov gone to the bench in favor of a sixth skater than Dynamo added a fourth goal. Dmitrij Jaskin was the scorer, wrapping up a convincing victory for the visitor at the start of this series.