Andrei Kuzmenko’s overtime goal gave SKA its third successive 2-1 verdict over Spartak. The action returns to Petersburg on Saturday with Roman Rotenberg’s team needing just one more victory to advance to a Western Conference final against CSKA.

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

(SKA leads the series 3-1)

Andrei Kuzmenko returned to the top of the scoring charts in this year’s playoffs after getting the overtime decider in Moscow. The 26-year-old moves to 11 (6+5) points, and leads Traktor’s Tomas Hyka by virtue of scoring more goals.

Today’s tally came in the 73rd minute of a hard-fought battle with Spartak. SKA led for much of the game, but was pegged back late on by Jori Lehtera’s goal to force overtime. In the extras, the visitor had the better of the play and got its winner thanks to a fine individual effort from Kuzmenko. He started with a solo rush, bamboozling Alexander Bryntsev but failing to find a way past Oscar Dansk in the home net. Then Igor Ozhiganov returned the puck to him behind the net and the SKA forward went one way, then the other, before scoring on the wraparound.

For much of the game, though, Spartak looked more than capable of tying this series. In the opening exchanges, the home team had the initiative. The Red-and-Whites outshot SKA 11-6 in the first period and enjoyed noticeably more time on the attack. However, that advantage did not lead to the all-important opening goal.

After surviving that difficult first period, SKA went in front immediately after the intermission. There were just 49 seconds played in the middle frame when Nikita Gusev’s shot beat Oscar Dansk. The chance was created by some great work from Danila Moiseyev, who battled his way to the paint but, unable to get a shot away, kept control of the puck as he moved out wide before setting up his team-mate in the danger zone.

That solitary goal looked like it might be enough to win the game. Both goalies were in impressive form throughout this encounter and as the evening went on, SKA’s defense proved to be adept at soaking up increasing pressure from Spartak. Lars Johansson made 30 saves, the defense blocked a further 14 shots and the visitor held its lead until the final minutes.

However, with exactly one minute left, Jori Lehtera scored on his former club to force the game into overtime. Spartak had replaced Dansk with a sixth skater just nine seconds earlier, Lehtera won the attacking face-off and after Sergei Shirokov’s shot bobbled away from Johansson, Andrei Loktionov set up the Finnish center for a close-range effort that took the game into overtime. However, after 12 minutes of the extras, SKA got the decisive goal as Kuzmenko claimed his sixth playoff marker and his third in this series.

The action returns to the Northern Capital on Saturday with Spartak needing a victory to keep its season alive. SKA, meanwhile, is bidding to make the Western Conference final for the seventh successive season. The last time it was knocked out earlier was in 2014, although that run includes the curtailed 2020 campaign when the pandemic halted the action after just one round of the playoffs.

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SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
Spartak (Moscow) Spartak (Moscow)
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