Andy Potts Andy Potts
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SKA booked its place in the Western Conference final with a convincing victory over Dynamo to wrap up this series in five. 

SKA St. Petersburg 4 Dynamo Moscow 0 (1-0, 2-0, 1-0)

(SKA wins the series 4-1)

After dropping game one here in Petersburg, the Army Men responded by reeling off four successive victories to complete the series. It wasn’t just a turnaround within this playoff match-up, though: the Muscovites 4-1 win at the start of the series was the team’s fifth win of the season against SKA, with Valery Bragin unable to find a winning formula against veteran head coach Vladimir Krikunov. But all that changed in the playoffs.

Photo: 26.03.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Playoffs. SKA (St.Petersburg) - Dynamo (Moscow)

After spending much of the regular season rotating his roster at will, Bragin named an unchanged line-up for the third game in a row here. Dynamo, meanwhile, dispensed with the services of Daniil Tarasov, who was promoted to the first line in place of the injured Dmitry Kagarlitsky, but made little impact and lost his place here to Vladimir Bryukvin. Ivan Igumnov joined Dmitrij Jaskin and Vadim Shipachyov on the strike trio for this game.

Dynamo arrived in Petersburg knowing that this was win or bust. With SKA up 3-1 in the series, the home team could wrap up its place in the Western Conference final tonight and await the outcome of the on-going CSKA-Lokomotiv series (which continues tomorrow with CSKA 3-2 ahead). As a result, the visitor went into the first period eager to seize the initiative and duly controlled much of the game. Dynamo outshot SKA 10-4, with Ilya Kruglov looking particularly lively, but was unable to turn that pressure into an opening goal.

Worse, as the opening frame continued, Krikunov’s team saw its momentum begin to ebb away and, five seconds before the intermission, SKA snatched a barely-deserved lead to take into the break. Artyom Shvets-Rogovoi sped behind the net and sent the puck to Vladislav Kamenev on the slot. His shot was blocked, but the deflection fell to Evgeny Timkin between the hash marks and he found the top shelf.

Then a catastrophic run of penalties at the start of the second period took this game away from Dynamo. Jaskin was first in the box, followed by Yegor Zaitsev. The visitor held on until Jaskin returned to the game, but then took a too many men call. A second spell on 3-on-5 penalty kill was too much for the Blue-and-Whites, and Emil Galimov made it 2-0. Then Jaskin returned to the box and SKA got another goal on the double power play, this time with Galimov turning provider for Igor Ozhiganov to make it three.

Ushered to the brink of elimination, Dynamo tried to find a way back. The visitor continued to outshoot SKA, but Magnus Hellberg was on top of his game and kept the door firmly closed — most notably with a double save to deny Jaskin in the 35th minute. That pattern continued in the third, with Dynamo making most of the play but, as desperation took hold, increasingly hurrying its moves and introducing errors into its play.

Any doubt about the outcome of the game, and the series, was removed midway through the third period when Vasily Podkolzin released Vladislav Tsitsyura for his first KHL playoff goal. The 21-year-old produced a composed finish after going clean through on the Dynamo net, sealing a landmark moment in style. At the other end, Hellberg continued to mop up any danger from Dynamo, finishing with 25 saves to secure his second shut-out in five post season appearances.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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