(Series tied at 3-3)
CSKA knew that its season hinged on the next 60 minutes and started the game at a rapid tempo. The first period was all about the Muscovites’ offense, outshooting SKA 15-4 but not always finding ways to seriously threaten Lars Johansson in the visitor’s net.
The breakthrough came in the 16th minute when Mikhail Grigorenko put CSKA in front. The Russian international had not previously scored in this series, but picked a good time to put that right with a goal that hugely boosted his team’s hopes of keeping the season alive. Grigorenko’s marker was an instinctive snipe following Vladislav Kamenev’s face-off win; Johansson had no chance of stopping an instant one-timer from the top of the left-hand circle.
In the second period, the home team started in similar fashion. Grigorenko’s long-range effort almost enabled Pavel Karnaukhov to force home a second goal early in the frame. SKA, though, steadily grew into the game and began to enjoy the better of the action. Around the midway point, the visitor created a flurry of chances, with Nikita Gusev having the best of them when he forced Ivan Fedotov to turn the puck away following Alexander Volkov’s saucer pass.
However, it wasn’t until the closing stages that SKA managed to seize the initiative and grab a tying goal. Barely a minute before the intermission, Marat Khusnutdinov’s pressing helped force Klas Dahlbeck into an error in front of his own net and Valentin Zykov was the beneficiary, taking the puck round Fedotov and the despairing dive of Dahlbeck to slide it into the net.
SKA’s relief did not last long, however. Just two minutes into the third period, CSKA regained the lead. Once again, it stemmed from winning an offensive-zone faceoff, but this time the puck went back to the point for Andrei Sergeyev to fire in a shot. Karnaukhov battled away on the slot and Vitaly Abramov stepped in to shoot home from a tight angle.
The visitor had an immediate chance to draw level when Anton Slepyshev sat out a high sticking call and Fedotov was called into action to deny Anton Burdasov and ... Vorobyov. However, CSKA survived that scare and continued a diligent pressing game once back to full strength. For a time, the game was tight but in the closing minutes the play opened up and we saw a rush of big chances.
SKA had the first look: the Petersburg team forced a turnover, Vorobyov fed Gusev on the right and Fedotov had to react smartly to halt a one-timer from his international team-mate.
Then CSKA responded with two good chances in the space of a minute. First, Kamenev stretched Johansson with a one timer, then the subsequent face-off saw Maxim Sorkin’s shot clip the outside of the post with Johansson beaten. The home team secured the victory – and extended the series – with a third late in the game when Grigorenko found the empty net after Oscar Fantenberg’s misplaced pass gave away the puck. Battle continues Thursday in a game seven showdown in St. Petersburg.