CSKA left it late, but two goals in the last four minutes brought a ninth consecutive victory for Sergei Fedorov’s team.

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

(CSKA leads the series 1-0)

The Western Conference final is a clash between two rookie coaches. For CSKA, Sergei Fedorov’s illustrious playing career did not seem to be a precursor to life behind the bench until this summer, when he swapped a managerial role for hands-on responsibility for his team.

At SKA, meanwhile, Roman Rotenberg’s appointment in place of the experienced Valery Bragin early this year had the look of a seamless reshuffle: Rotenberg was previously part of Bragin’s staff – those roles now reversed – and he had taken charge of the team on an interim basis in the past. However, like Fedorov, he is currently leading a team through post season for the first time.

For both men, the opening playoff engagements went smoothly. CSKA got to this stage without dropping a single game, despite potentially awkward opposition in the form of Lokomotiv and Dynamo Moscow. SKA suffered one loss in the opening two rounds, caught cold by Spartak in the opening game of round two after breezing past Dinamo Minsk for starters.

Today though, it was CSKA and Fedorov that grabbed the all-important opening game. The visitor could hardly have asked for a better start, taking the lead after 81 seconds. SKA had twice tested Ivan Fedotov in the first shifts, but an attacking face-off gave CSKA the advantage. Bogdan Kiselevich retrieved the puck on the boards and sent it back to the blue line where Maxim Sorkin’s shot fizzed past Lars Johansson.

Subsequently, SKA had the better of the game but struggled to give Fedotov any serious problems in the first period. However, straight after the intermission the home team got its first power play of the game and quickly parlayed that into a tying goal. The CSKA penalty kill sat deep, allowing Mikko Lehtonen time to set himself for a point shot and Andrei Kuzmenko got to the slot to deliver the decisive touch and take the puck away from Fedotov.

CSKA responded by grabbing a greater share of the play, and the home defense was forced to put in the hard yards. SKA blocked nine attempts on goal in the middle frame as the teams appeared increasingly evenly matched. The third period continued in similar fashion, although when the visitor got a chance on the power play it looked capable of snatching a winner. Shortly after, SKA lost Artyom Shvets-Rogovoi, hurt when he blocked a slap shot from Darren Dietz.

The winning goal arrived late in the game, just as many were settling down for some overtime. Alexander Popov, the 41-year-old veteran, broke the deadlock. With his distinguished playoff beard shot through with grey hairs, Popov had been involved in both earlier goals: his screen prevented Johansson from seeing Sorkin’s early shot, but then his foul presented SKA with the PP that led to Kuzmenko’s leveller. Now he combined with Andrei Svetlakov behind the net before moving out to slot to collect his colleague’s pass and shoot home.

SKA tried to find a response. A minute after Popov’s tally, Rotenberg called a time-out and Johansson remained on the bench as the home team looked for a tying goal in the remaining two-and-a-half minutes. However, it was not to be. Vladislav Kamenev snuffed out his former club’s last chance when he found the empty net and CSKA claimed the early initiative in the series.


Related clubs

SKA (Saint Petersburg) SKA (Saint Petersburg)
CSKA (Moscow) CSKA (Moscow)
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