Game one. SKA – Torpedo – 2:1 OT
Despite producing a below-par performance, SKA outlasted Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in game one of the quarter-finals of the 2022/2023 KHL Gagarin Cup playoffs, claiming a nervy 2:1 victory in overtime at the Ice Palace.
Remaining true to their philosophy, Torpedo started with no fear and applied some early pressure on SKA.
During the maiden 10 minutes of proceedings, dangerous forward Nikolai Kovalenko twice found himself skating through 1-on-1, but he missed the target with only Dmitry Nikolaev to beat.
Nikolaev was initially the busier goaltender in the opening stanza, making five saves in the opening stages with Torpedo earning a powerplay and creating a handful of promising chances.
SKA duly began to improve as the period progressed. Our players drew two penalties out of Torpedo, but wonderful chances on the powerplay were wasted by Mikhail Vorobyov and Stepan Falkovsky with away goalkeeper Ivan Kulbakov slamming the door shut.
The second stanza saw Torpedo take the initiative.
The Nizhny Novgorod-based outfit passed up two glorious chances to break the deadlock in the second half of the frame. After an unsuccessful attempt from Nikolaev to intercept a pass, a Torpedo player seemingly had an empty net to aim at, but Alexander Nikishin heroically blocked the ensuing shot on the line.
Not long later, former SKA player Alexei Kruchinin stepped up to take a penalty shot after Nikishin had committed a tripping foul against the clean-through Vladislav Firstov. However, to our delight, Kruchinin could only hook his ensuing attempt over the crossbar.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 46th minute.
Alone on the right faceoff circle, Nikolai Prokhorkin thumped a huge one-timer past Kulbakov with the Torpedo defence nowhere to be seen.
For the vast majority of the third stanza, SKA managed the game effectively, protecting possession and not allowing Torpedo to have any clear shooting lanes.
But, out of the blue, a terrible defensive error allowed Torpedo to grab an equaliser with a little less than three minutes remaining in regulation.
1-on-1 with Nikolaev after the SKA defence had been caught up inside the attacking zone, Firstov neatly slid the puck between our goalkeeper’s pads.
At the start of the extra frame, Dmitrij Jaskin passed up a perfect chance to win it for SKA with the goal gaping, whacking the puck off the mark from point-blank range.
Torpedo were then gifted an ideal opportunity to steal the victory on a powerplay after Igor Ozhiganov had committed hooking. On the ensuing powerplay, Nikolaev came to the rescue for SKA, preventing the puck from going in on numerous occasions when under overwhelming pressure. The confident Firstov also came incredibly close to scoring with a remarkable lacrosse attempt.
Those misses were punished seconds after that Torpedo powerplay had ended.
When unleashing a snappy shot from the faceoff draw, Jaskin’s low effort just had too much power for Kulbakov.
The second match of the series will take place in Saint Petersburg on Saturday. Puck-drop is scheduled for 17:00 local time.
SKA – Torpedo – 2:1 OT (0:0, 0:0, 1:1, 1:0)
1:0 Prokhorkin (Pedan, Grebenshchikov), 45.17
1:1 Firstov (Yan, Konyushkov), 57.18
2:1 Jaskin, 65.09
Goalkeepers: Nikolaev – Kulbakov
Shots: 49 – 55
Shots on target: 27 – 26
Faceoffs: 25 – 38
Hits: 26 – 7
Blocked shots: 17 – 10
Penalty minutes: 6 – 8
Referees: Raming, Fateev
Linesmen: Stroganov, Sysuev
16.03.2023. Ice Palace, Saint Petersburg.