(Spartak leads the series 1-0)
On a day of comprehensive road wins, Spartak borrowed from Avangard’s playbook by grabbing the initiative in the first period and stubbornly refusing to let it go. The lowest ranked team left in this year’s playoffs took an early lead in its series against SKA.
The teams traded early chances with Mikhail Vorobyov going close for SKA before Jori Lehtera forced a smart save out of Lars Johansson at the other end. But the opening goal came out of nothing when Yegor Savikov went coast-to-coast with the puck and surprised everyone by shooting from the blue line. Johansson had not anticipated a shot from that kind of distance and was beaten despite the lack of any obvious traffic in front of him.
Spartak was close to doubling the lead immediately when Alexander Khokhlachyov burst through the center, but this time the home goalie was ready for his shot. However, SKA appeared unprepared for Spartak’s first-period onslaught and the visitor continued to create the better chances. A defensive lapse allowed Ivan Drozdov to go one-on-one with Johansson and the Swede again made the save. Andrei Loktionov followed up and hit the post.
Both those forwards would find the net before the first intermission, though. Drozdov made it 2-0 with a short-handed goal when he intercepted Mikko Lehtonen’s misplaced pass and skated clear to score, then Loktionov fired the puck to the slot and benefitted from a deflection off Vasily Tokranov’s skate to add a third seconds before the hooter.
Spartak was good value for that lead. No smash-and-grab raid from the underdog here, this was a performance that more than matched SKA all over the ice. The home team responded by replacing Johansson with Alexander Samonov and throughout the second period SKA was able to protect its net far better, allowing just five shots at the new goalie.
There was also a goal clawed back after 27 minutes when Anton Burdasov found himself unable to open a shooting lane but went around the net to set up Stepan Falkovsky for a point shot that beat Oscar Dansk in the Spartak net. Almost immediately, though, the three-goal advantage was restored. A delayed penalty helped Spartak get forward and Maxim Tsyplakov set up Khokhlachyov for a goalbound shot from the top of the left-hand circle.
In the third period, SKA was clearly the dominant force but by this time it was too late to save the game. Spartak was able to close out the final minutes relatively comfortably, helped by frequent unforced errors from the home team. And the visitor had the final word, with Sergei Shirokov and Alexander Nikishin both scoring empty net goals to complete an emphatic road win.
However, despite Spartak’s impressive start to the series, SKA can point to recent history. In 2019, the last time these teams met in the playoffs, the Muscovites won twice in Petersburg but ultimately lost the series in six games. Roman Rotenberg’s team will be confident that it can bounce back from this setback in similar fashion.