A fourth successive 2-1 victory wrapped up SKA’s series against Spartak and the Petersburg team continues its run of reaching the Western Conference final. SKA has featured every year since 2015 and has missed out just once since 2012.

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

(SKA wins the series 4-1)

SKA wrapped up its battle with Spartak in game five, advancing to the Western Conference final to face CSKA. It’s the sixth time these clubs have contested the Western final since 2015, with Lokomotiv’s second-round win over CSKA in 2017 producing the only break outside of the pandemic. The last time a Western final went ahead without SKA’s involvement was in 2014 when, once again, Lokomotiv crashed the party.

For the fourth game in a row, SKA edged Spartak with a 2-1 verdict. Unusually, that means that despite winning the series in five games, SKA actually scored fewer goals than its opponent. However, the 6-1 win for the Red-and-Whites in the opening game was the solitary success for Boris Mironov’s team in this year’s playoffs; subsequently, Roman Rotenberg’s men closed the door on the opposition to progress.

After back-to-back wins in Moscow, SKA returned home expecting to finish the job on Saturday. However, Spartak was not about to roll over and finish its season without a fight. The visitor seized the early initiative and was on top for long periods in the opening frame. That pressure was rewarded in the eighth minute when Dmitry Kugryshev rifled home the first goal. In every other game of this series, the team that scored first went on to win. And it wasn’t just historical trends that gave SKA cause for alarm: with just four shots at Oscar Dansk in the first period, the home team was clearly struggling to generate the offense it needed to get into this game.

That began to change in the middle frame. SKA began to play on the front foot, enjoying far more time in the Spartak zone and tightening the screws on the visiting defense. That pressure produced a tying goal on the power play. Mikko Lehtonen’s point shot came through a thicket of sticks and legs, taking a touch off Leo Komarov to steer it beyond Dansk’s grasp. Midway through the second period, SKA had a great chance to increase its lead when it got on a 5-on-3 power play, but instead of taking advantage the home team fluffed its lines and lost Nikita Gusev after he fouled Tim Heed.

However, it was Gusev who grabbed the game-winner early in the third period. A stretch pass from Mikhail Vorobyov sent SKA’s star forward to meet Dansk. Gusev stationed himself between the hash marks and lifted a wrist shot into the net off the underside of the crossbar to put his team within touching distance of that conference final.

There was still time for Spartak to recover, but SKA’s game management was too strong. For long periods, the visitor was unable to apply meaningful pressure to Lars Johansson’s net. Belatedly, the Red-and-Whites were able to get a foothold in the home zone, but time was running out. Dansk went to the bench 80 seconds before the hooter and there were some anxious moments as a shot flashed wide and the puck skittled around the danger zone. However, there was no way back for the visitor as its season came to an end.

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