In an epic encounter, a youthful SKA side took HC Ak Bars Kazan all the way to a penalty shootout at home in the KHL regular season, tallying one point in a 2:3 loss at the Saint Petersburg Ice Palace.
Despite the team’s lack of experience, SKA made an energetic, enthusiastic start against Ak Bars, dominating the early stages and forcing the opponents into taking two penalties in the opening six minutes. Creating several chances on the powerplay, SKA should have taken the lead, however Arslan Yarullin lashed a strong effort off target and Andrei Kuzmenko was denied by a smart glove stop by Timur Bilyalov. Nevertheless, as the period continued, Ak Bars did gradually take the initiative and Mikhail Berdin had to be on top form to stop a series of close-range attempts from the Tatar club. The shot count in the first period of play ended level at 16 apiece.
The game continued in much the same vein in the second stanza.
Eager to display their potential, our young players refused to stop applying huge pressure on Ak Bars, shooting from any possible angle and carving the opposing defence open on a regular basis. However, after the more experienced Kuzmenko and Vladimir Tkachyov were guilty of missing ideal opportunities, Ak Bars promptly punished our team with the opening goal.
From the left wing, Swedish defenseman Mikael Vikstrand decided to dump the puck towards Berdin’s net, and it trickled over the line following a cruel deflection off a SKA stick.
Ak Bars subsequently doubled their advantage before the second frame was out.
Following an interference foul committed by Marat Khusnutdinov, Patrice Cormier struck a powerplay goal for the Kazan-based organisation, deflecting Justin Azevedo’s shot past the stranded Berdin. Furthermore, moments before he was sent to the penalty box, Khusnutdinov had contrived to miss the target when clean through.
In the closing minutes of the period, Vasily Podkolzin could have halved the deficit for SKA, but his rising wrister was expertly plucked out of the air by the impressive Bilyalov.
The third period saw the game become increasingly stretched as the two teams pressed each other. To their credit, SKA continued forcing the issue, eventually breaking through with seven minutes remaining. Receiving a pass from Artyom Nikolaev, Ivan Morozov had time to pick his spot on the left faceoff circle, with the latter finally leaving Bilyalov helpless.
That was the moment which gave SKA the belief that it was possible to salvage something from a memorable battle.
Incredibly, with only 21 seconds left on the clock in the third period, Andrei Kuzmenko went top shelf on Bilyalov with Berdin pulled for the extra skater to peg Ak Bars back at 2:2 and drag the match into overtime.
A breathless overtime period which saw both teams pass up glorious opportunities.
In the end, a penalty shootout was required to separate the clubs, and unfortunately Alexander Burmistrov was the only player to score as he snatched the victory for Ak Bars. SKA will now prepare for an away series, with the next match scheduled to take place on September 30 against Sibir in Novosibirsk. Puck drop is set for 15:00 Moscow time.
SKA - Ak Bars - 2:3 SO (0:0, 0:2, 2:0, 0:0 - 0:1)
0:1 Vikstrand (Petrov, Yarullin), 28.01
0:2 Cormier (Azevedo, Yarullin), 33.00
1:2 Morozov (Nikolaev), 53.12
2:2 Kuzmenko (Timkin, Tkachyov), 59.39
2:3 Burmistrov, 65.00 SO
Goalkeepers: Berdin - Bilyalov
Shots on target: 36 - 32
Faceoffs: 19 - 39
Hits: 16 - 22
Penalty minutes: 11 - 17
Referees: Gashilov, Ravodin
25.09.2020. Ice Palace, Saint Petersburg.