SKA St. Petersburg 5 Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod 4 (2-1, 3-3, 0-0)
(SKA leads the series 2-0)
Top seed SKA heads to Nizhny Novgorod with a 2-0 lead in the series. However, that fact masks the two close battles seen in Petersburg at the start of this Western Conference semi-final. Igor Larionov’s team pushed its powerful opponent to overtime in game one, and then lost out by the odd goal in nine in the second match-up.
After an opening encounter where goals were hard to come by, this was a very different affair. The teams traded nine goals in 40 minutes. After struggling to break down Torpedo on Thursday, SKA started at a high tempo and seemed determined to stamp its authority on proceedings from the start. However, despite some early chances, the home team fell behind in the third minute when it allowed a short-handed goal. Andrei Belevich looked to set up Nikolai Kovalenko, but the puck deflected off a SKA skate and deceived goalie Dmitry Nikolayev. From nothing, Torpedo had the opening goal.
That lead did not last long. In the seventh minute, with some slick passes cutting a path through the visiting defense to send Vasily Glotov clear to beat Ivan Kulbakov. From that moment on, SKA would not trail again. However, it would struggle to truly impose its control on the game. In the 15th minute, the home team got in front for the first time when Valentin Zykov set up Mikhail Vorobyov for a close-range finish.
Torpedo began the second period on the PK, and had to kill another shortly afterwards. However, once back at full strength the visitor quickly tied the scores. Maxim Fedotov’s long-range effort cannoned back off the boards and bounced into the net off the skate of Artyom Mikheyev.
That opened the floodgates. Within a minute, Emil Galimov restored SKA’s lead and midway through the frame Nikita Kamalov made it 4-2. Then the teams again exchanged quick goals: Belevich got his second of the night, only for Nikita Gusev to restore that two-goal cushion on 35:35. There was more to come in the middle frame, though, with Alexei Kruchinin releasing Kovalenko in the final minute. That brought a power play goal to make it 5-4 at the second break.
Nine goals in two periods represented a festival of attacking hockey. However, remember those two goalless periods at the start of game one? Apparently the teams did, playing out 20 goalless minutes here to finish the game. Torpedo, in greater need of a goal, spent more time on the attack but struggled to break down a resolute home defense. The best chance fell to Kruchinin midway through the session, but he fired wide when well placed. In the final seconds, SKA goalie Dmitry Nikolayev almost produced that rarest of feats – a goal direct from his own shot. However, his clearance towards the empty net clipped the outside of the post and his only reward was an icing call that gave Torpedo one last, forlorn hope of saving the game.