SKA inflicted a first playoff loss of the season on CSKA to tie the Western Conference final series. A defensive masterclass from the home team – which kept the Muscovites away from its net for long periods of the game – made the difference despite another fast start from the visitor.

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

(Series tied at 1-1)

For the second game running, CSKA grabbed an early lead. And, for the second game running, veteran forward Alexander Popov was on the scoresheet. Andrei Svetlakov intercepted a sloppy clearance from Stepan Falkovsky behind the SKA net and fired in a shot that flashed wide and looped up off the back boards. As the puck dropped between Lars Johansson and the goal line, Popov was first to react and batted it into the net. After 91 seconds, the visitor broke the deadlock.

SKA’s hopes of hitting back fast took a knock when Alexander Volkov sat out a tripping call, but the home team killed that penalty and went on to take control of the game. CSKA was held to just four shots on goal as Ivan Fedotov made 16 stops to preserve the Muscovites’ lead.

But the second period saw the home team turn the game around. First, Falkovsky atoned for his early error by scoring the tying goal. Andrei Kuzmenko, the leading scorer in this year’s playoffs, fashioned a way out from behind Fedotov’s net and his pass set up the defenseman for an angled shot that the visiting goalie could not keep out.

Late in the middle frame, SKA got in front for the first time in this series. Igor Ozhiganov, who had to leave the game briefly after taking the full force of a Nikita Nesterov shot on his ankle, returned to set up the go-ahead goal. Ozhiganov’s shot bounced into the path of Nikita Gusev who collected the puck beyond the goal line and fired in a shot that deflected off the back Fedotov and dropped into the net.

CSKA’s problems were evident: over the course of two periods, the visitor managed just nine shots at Lars Johansson and the visiting offense was unable to make much impact on the game. However, at the start of the third there was a great opportunity to get back into the game when a couple of quick penalties gave the Muscovites a 5-on-3 advantage for more than 90 seconds. Johansson now had some work to do, most notably to deny Mikhail Grigorenko, but SKA was able to survive the onslaught and preserve its lead.

After that, CSKA continued to struggle with its earlier problem – possession was not leading to clear cut chances to tie the game. And, as the clock ran down, penalty trouble further undermined the visitor’s cause. Sergei Plotnikov sat for slashing and SKA rang the iron on the power play when Anton Burdasov fired against the crossbar. Then the home team got a 5-on-3 advantage when Artyom Sergeyev followed Plotnikov into the box for a high stick. With little time remaining, SKA declined to go for the jugular and instead used the opportunity to eat up some vital seconds.

CSKA remained in the game until the very end but was unable to withdraw Fedotov until there were just 46 seconds remaining. That was not long enough to whip up the final storm that could save the game and SKA took the verdict and tied the series.

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