Saint Petersburg (17:00)
Nizhny Novgorod (18:00)
Saint Petersburg (19:30)
(SKA leads the series 3-0)
After a humbling 3-8 loss in the opening game of this series, Dinamo was much improved in the second instalment, eventually losing 1-3 after a couple of late goals added some gloss to SKA’s performance. Now, though, the time for hard luck stories was over; the Belarusians had to find a way to get back into the series before it was too late.
Dinamo got the early breakthrough it needed in the ninth minute when Malte Stromwall scored on his former club. Lars Johansson was forced into saves from Ilya Shinkevich and Nikita Pyshkailo but could not get the puck under control and was powerless to prevent Stromwall’s shot from finding the net. However, SKA went on to dominate much of the first period and could count itself unfortunate to trail at the intermission.
In the second stanza, the visitor set about turning the game around. Emil Galimov tied the scores, firing home at the second attempt after Alexander Volkov’s hard work in the corner. Then Galimov turned provider, going round the back of Alexei Kolosov’s net and feeding Georgy Solyannikov in front of goal. The forward has spent the bulk of this season with SKA Neva in the VHL, but got his first KHL tally since moving from Sochi in the summer to put the Army Men up 2-1 in the 28th minute.
Dinamo responded within a couple of minutes when Denis Mosalyov forced the puck home from close range after Johansson again struggled to deal with a shot from Shinkevich. Mosalyov scored a late consolation goal in Friday’s 1-3 loss in St. Petersburg, and has history in playoff encounters with SKA: back in 2013 his memorable game-winning hat-trick set Dynamo Moscow on the way to a Western Conference final sweep as Oleg Znarok headed to his first Gagarin Cup triumph.
But this is 2022, and Mosalyov is in the blue-and-white of Minsk rather than Moscow. Moreover, this SKA team is stronger and more streetwise than its predecessor. After the two teams went toe-to-toe in the second, the visitor showed its superior game management in the third. Dinamo was limited to just three shots on Johansson’s net, with SKA blocking a further nine attempts before they could trouble the goalie. This came at some cost to the Army Men’s own attacking ambitions and, for a time, overtime seemed to be on the way.
However, when Libor Hudacek took a penalty in the closing minutes, the door opened for SKA. And, with 46 seconds left, Nikita Gusev grabbed the winning goal when he put away the rebound following Anton Burdasov’s shot. There were whistles around Arena Minsk, where many in the home crowd were unimpressed with the interference call against Hudacek, but there was insufficient time for Craig Woodcroft’s team to salvage the game. SKA closed out the win and is now just one step away from sweeping through the first round.