In the opening match of the third round of the 2021/2022 KHL Gagarin Cup playoffs, SKA just came up short against CSKA Moscow, conceding a narrow 1:3 defeat at the Ice Palace.
CSKA took the lead with their maiden attempt on goal.
With only two minutes on the clock, Maxim Sorkin hit the jackpot from the blue line, catching Lars Johansson cold with a heavy slap shot.
Johansson had to be at his best to make a few further difficult saves in the remainder of the first period. Nevertheless, SKA did gradually warm into proceedings, as the hosts protected the puck in the attacking zone and forced opposing goalkeeper Ivan Fedotov into a series of tough stops. Emil Galimov came particularly close, twice seeing his dangerous efforts from tight angles fielded by Fedotov.
SKA did deservedly get back on level terms at the start of the second stanza.
On the powerplay, Mikko Lehtonen unleashed a wrister through traffic, and the puck took a sharp deflection off Andrei Kuzmenko to decide Fedotov in the CSKA net.
Our players competed on the front foot for the majority of the period. Applying pressure on the CSKA defence with intense play, SKA tested Fedotov on a regular basis, with Nikita Gusev and Anton Burdasov coming close on a number of occasions.
The ensuing third period saw both teams continue to compete with intensity while not willing to take any unnecessary risks at the same time.
The decisive moment arrived with only three minutes remaining in the frame after the sides had wasted a powerplay each.
Following an avoidable defensive mistake, Andrei Svetlakov picked out the lurking Alexander Popov on the doorstep, who beat Johansson with the help of the right post.
In the closing two minutes of the stanza, SKA head coach Roman Rotenberg did opt to swap Johansson in favour of the extra skater, but that only resulted in Vladislav Kamenev hitting the empty net from distance.
Game two of the semi-final series will take place on Monday in Saint Petersburg. Puck-drop is scheduled for 19:30 local time.
SKA – CSKA – 1:3 (0:1, 1:0, 0:2)
0:1 Sorkin (Kiselevich), 01.21
1:1 Kuzmenko (Lehtonen, Burdasov), 22.03 PPG
1:2 Popov (Svetlakov), 56.36
1:3 Kamenev, 58.26 EN
Goalkeepers: Johansson – Fedotov
Shots: 47 - 52
Shots on target: 29 - 23
Faceoffs: 23 - 35
Blocked shots: 15 - 13
Hits: 15 - 17
Penalty minutes: 8 - 8
Referees: Yudakov, Olenin
Linesmen: Shalagin, Savenkov
02.04.2022. Ice Palace, Saint Petersburg.