Andy Potts Andy Potts
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SKA kept the Western Conference final alive after grabbing victory in Moscow. Vasily Podkolzin stopped the clock on 113:51, claiming his second of the game as Valery Bragin’s team reduced the deficit to 2-3 in the series. Now the action heads back to Petersburg for game six on Monday.

CSKA Moscow 2 SKA St. Petersburg 3 3OT (1-0, 0-2, 1-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-1)

(CSKA leads the series 3-2)

After losing game four on the road, CSKA brought Nikita Soshnikov into the first line. His place on the third was taken by Brendan Leipsic, while Mario Kempe was a healthy scratch. SKA went with an unchanged roster.

Photo: 10.04.21. KHL Championship 2020-2021. Playoffs. CSKA (Moscow) - SKA (St.Petersburg)

Needing one more victory to book its place in the Gagarin Cup final, CSKA tried to impose itself on the game from the start. However, after an early chance for Leipsic, there was little to encourage the home team until a penalty on Linden Vey brought the first power play of the game. SKA survived that scare but after the visitor returned to full strength, Soshnikov forced a good save out of Magnus Hellberg. From the face-off, CSKA took the lead. Maxim Shalunov got the puck to the slot where Maxim Mamin was strong enough to score on Hellberg at the second attempt.

The home team almost extended that advantage immediately, with Hellberg struggling to handle a point shot from Klas Dahlbeck. However, after a flurry of action in the middle of the opening frame, the game settled down again and it remained 1-0 until the intermission.

In the second stanza, SKA turned it upside down. Two quick goals from Vasily Podkolzin and Kirill Marchenko erased CSKA’s lead and put the visitor in front. Podkolzin tied it up when he went around the back of Johansson’s net and looked to score on the wraparound. It took two attempts to beat the Swede, but eventually Podkolzin stuffed the puck over the line.

Then Marchenko produced a touch of class to put SKA in front. Collecting the puck on the right-hand boards, he seared away from Andrei Loktionov and left Artyom Blazhiyevsky with an impossible choice in front of the CSKA net. Forced to choose between tracking the puck or sticking with his man, the home D-man ended up unable to do either and Marchenko created a lane for a backhand shot past Lars Johansson.

Suddenly, midway through game five, SKA could see the pathway that might lead it to salvation in this series. Had Ivan Morozov’s pacey rush a couple of minutes later ended with a shot inside the far post, we might have been preparing a return to Petersburg long before the winning goal. However, Morozov’s effort flashed just wide of the target and CSKA remained in contention.

It was a big intermission for Igor Nikitin, who needed to find the words to get his team back on track after a disappointing showing in the second period. Whatever was said in the CSKA locker room seemed to do the job, though. The home team blazed into action at the start of the third, with Anton Slepyshev proving a handful in his first couple of shifts. Then, in the 45th minute, Brendan Leipsic justified his return to the team with the tying goal. Loktionov’s pass sent the Canadian forward into SKA territory and his wrist shot did the rest. Within a minute, Konstantin Okulov’s solo effort almost restored CSKA’s lead, but Hellberg made the save.

SKA thought it had the winner with three minutes left on the clock. However, as Anton Burdasov surged forward to beat Johansson from long range, Dinar Khafizullin strayed offside and the goal was ruled out following a video review.

That sent us into overtime for the first time in this series — and the teams proved inseparable for two extra periods. SKA had much the better of the first, limiting CSKA to just 51 seconds of offensive play but failing to carve out the chances it needed to settle the outcome. The second was almost a mirror image, with CSKA having the better of the game but failing to score.

Then came the winner in the 114th minute. Podkolzin was the scorer, smashing home his second of the game with a one-timer from the right-hand circle after Vladislav Tsitsyura’s cross-ice pass picked him out. That was the 19-year-old’s third goal of the series and, of the eight goals SKA has scored on Johansson, Podkolzin has been involved in five.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
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SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
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