Andy Potts Andy Potts
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Two goals from Maxim Mamin and three points from Konstantin Okulov gave CSKA a hard-fought win in game five of this Western Conference semi-final. Teemu Pulkkinen’s pair for Loko was not enough to prevent the Army Men going up 3-2 in the series. Igor Nikitin’s team can wrap up the contest in Yaroslavl on Saturday.

CSKA Moscow 3 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl 2 (2-0, 1-1, 0-1)

(CSKA leads the series 3-2)

The stakes were high as game five got underway — and CSKA was boosted by a dream start to the action. Inside the first minute, the home team went in front when Okulov’s effort from the point took a huge deflection off Maxim Osipov and deceived Eddie Pasquale in the Lokomotiv net. Pasquale has proven a formidable obstacle in this series — two shut-outs, and just two goals allowed in an overtime loss in game three — but when the Army Men struck early in game two they went on to score four, posting the highest-scoring victory of the match-up. So an early marker here was a big psychological moment.

Photo: 25.03.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Playoffs. CSKA (Moscow) - Lokomotiv (Yaroslavl)

However, Loko hit back and almost tied the scores a couple of minutes later. Artyom Kayumov saw his goalbound shot deflected away, but only to Anton Lander, who looked to have a simple task in front of a wide-open net. However, Artyom Blazhiyevsky had other ideas and got back to knock the puck off the goal line and preserve CSKA’s lead.

That was the closest Lokomotiv came in the first session, and late in the frame Maxim Mamin doubled the home lead when Maxim Shalunov sent him streaking down the right-hand channel to outwit Pasquale two minutes before the intermission.

Lokomotiv came out for the second stanza looking determined to put things right. After killing a penalty that carried over from the first, the visitor showed rather more attacking intent and the increased pressure saw CSKA began to face penalty trouble of its own. Although a foul from Andre Petersson cut short a 5-on-3 opportunity for the visitor, Loko managed to reduce the deficit in 4-on-3 play when Alexei Marchenko set up Teemu Pulkkinen for a powerful effort that beat Lars Johansson at his near post.

CSKA’s problems were not over — another penalty kept the Railwaymen on the front foot — but gradually the home team got its offense back into the game. Mario Kempe dinged the crossbar and in the 37th minute Konstantin Okulov set up Mamin to restore the Army Men’s two-goal advantage. This time it all started with Okulov’s hard work out on the boards, then his precise pass enabled Mamin to go top shelf on Pasquale and give CSKA a big lift prior to the second intermission.

In the third period, Loko tried to raise its game. The visitor got close to saving itself, but ultimately fell short in an absorbing finish. The lifeline came midway through the frame thanks to Pulkkinen. The Finn’s forechecking saw Artyom Sergeyev cough up the puck on the Loko blue line. Pulkkinen charged forward and went five-hole on Johansson to pot his second of the evening and make it a one-goal game.

And there was more drama to come, with Vladimir Tkachyov hitting the crossbar as Lokomotiv pushed for an equalizer. That was the closest we came to another goal, but CSKA went close through Kempe and Anton Slepyshev, while Lander fired narrowly wide at the other end after good work from Pavel Kraskovsky.

Loko’s hopes of saving the game suffered a blow when Pulkkinen took a penalty in the 57th minute. That slowed the visitor’s momentum in the final moments of the game, helping CSKA to hold on and claim a vital win in this series.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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