CSKA silenced SKA’s offense to win Thursday’s game seven showdown in St. Petersburg. Ivan Fedotov made 26 saves to blank the home team, while Sergei Plotnikov scored twice. The Muscovites advance to play Metallurg in the Gagarin Cup final, making their fourth consecutive appearance in the grand final.

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

(CSKA wins the series 4-3)

In 2017, Plotnikov was part of SKA’s Gagarin Cup winning roster. Today, though, he shot down the Petersburg team which has not made it back to the final since lifting the trophy five years ago. His two second-period goals tipped this game in CSKA’s favor, and the visitor diligently protected that advantage in the closing stages. Now Plotnikov faces another of his former clubs, Metallurg, in the grand final.

Lifted by home advantage, SKA made the brighter start. There were good opportunities for an opening goal, with Mikhail Vorobyov and Emil Galimov both close to applying the finishing to dangerous feeds. However, the most memorable incident of the early stages came when Zakhar Bardakov and Konstantin Okulov squared up in front of the home net. Both players got double minors for roughing, while Vladislav Kamenev and Nikita Kamalov also took minor penalties for their involvement in the skirmish.

By the midpoint of the opening frame, CSKA had managed just one shot on goal. However, the visitor was not going to be silenced for long and finished the first period the stronger. The visitor won a puck battle in the SKA zone and Vitaly Abramov headed to the net. Pavel Karnaukhov took over possession and tested Lars Johansson with a dangerous shot but the home goalie was equal to the challenge.

The second session began with another flashpoint as Leo Komarov and Sergei Andronov clashed and were duly sent to the sin bin. When the teams returned to full strength, CSKA broke the deadlock and it was former SKA center Sergei Plotnikov who got the go-ahead goal. Semyon Pankratov surged over the blue line and spread the puck wide to Plotnikov. His shot bounced back off Pankratov’s skate and, at the second attempt, Sergei was able to force it home.

Late in the middle stanza, Plotnikov had the puck in the net once again. This time Anton Slepyshev was the architect, going around the net and slinging out a pass to the slot where Plotnikov was waiting with a one-timer. SKA challenged the call, citing goalie interference on Andronov’s part, but the video review allowed the goal and the home team trailed by two and had a penalty to kill.

In the third period, CSKA understandably focused on shutting down the game and ensuring that SKA had few opportunities to reignite its hopes of progress. As a result, chances were hard to come by: by the midway point, we saw just four shots on goal, all from the home team.

That pattern remained until the end. CSKA played cautious, defensive hockey that strangled SKA’s offense in center ice and denied its star forwards the chance to fire their team back in the game. On a day when Nikita Gusev might have overtaken Ilya Kovalchuk as his team’s leading scorer in the KHL era, Petersburg was left firing blanks. An empty net goal from Konstantin Okulov merely underlined the point – CSKA was heading to the final while SKA, once again, fell short in the Western Conference.

CSKA will now face Metallurg in the Gagarin Cup final. The final battle of the season gets underway Monday in Magnitogorsk and will continue until, potentially, game seven on April 30.

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