In a nervy, tense encounter, SKA edged past HC Spartak Moscow at the CSKA Arena, emerging victorious by a score of 2:0 to get back to winning ways in the 2020/2021 KHL regular season.
It’s worth noting that defenseman Arseniy Brinkman and forward Vladislav Tsitsyura all made their league debuts, while goalkeeper Yaroslav Askarov made only the second start in his KHL career.
SKA initially gave Spartak a chance to take the initiative with two consecutive penalties from Brinkman and Miro Aaltonen. However, with 18-year-old Askarov pulling off a handful of excellent saves, our players successfully killed those two penalties and promptly took the lead on their maiden powerplay. Receiving a pass from Lukas Bengtsson on the left faceoff circle, Vladimir Tkachyov gave opposing goalkeeper Nikita Bespalov no chance, slapping a rasping one timer into the net.
20-year-old Tsitsyura twice came close to getting on the scoreboard as our confidence increased. Displaying his pace, the young forward pulled to the crease only to lose the puck at the vital moment, before he found Brinkman with an intelligent pass towards the end of the period. The latter whacked his ensuing effort wide.
SKA would, however, double the lead in the 16th minute.
Finding the loose puck on the crease, Tkachyov grabbed his second of the evening, rifling the puck top shelf to firmly put SKA in the box seat.
That goal should have calmed any SKA nerves, but that wasn’t the case.
Spartak piled on the pressure throughout the entirety of the second period. Sensing blood, the Moscow-based organisation pressed SKA with aggression and intensity, testing the reaction of the superb Askarov on a regular basis. In truth, Askarov was the only difference between the teams in the second stanza, and he came to the rescue when pulling off a fantastic stop with his left pad to prevent Sergei Shirokov from scoring with a penalty shot. It had been awarded after the stick was thrown in Shirokov’s direction when he contrived to miss an open goal.
SKA only tallied 11 shots on target in the second period compared to Spartak’s 15. Nevertheless, our team did have chances too, in particular when the clean through Anton Burdasov failed to slide the puck under Bespalov.
The game continued in much the same tone in the third period. Immediately after the restart, Askarov came up trumps with yet another memorable save, somehow stopping the puck on the line with an acrobatic stretch of his left pad. At the other end, Burdasov should have put the game to bed once and for all, but he missed the gaping net following a terrible mistake from Bespalov.
Askarov, demonstrating his incredible talent time and time again, was in inspired form and successfully preserved a memorable shutout to see SKA through to a gritty 2:0 triumph in Moscow!
SKA will now return to Saint Petersburg for three successive home games. The next match will take place at 17:30 local time against Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod at the Ice Palace on Sunday.
Spartak - SKA - 0:2 (0:2, 0:0, 0:0)
0:1 Tkachyov (Bengtsson), 07.20
0:2 Tkachyov (Marchenko, Vey), 15.50
Goalkeepers: Bespalov - Askarov
Shots on target: 33 - 27
Faceoffs: 26 - 38
Hits: 3 - 3
Penalty minutes: 10 - 12
Referees: Ravodin, Yudakov
17.09.2020. CSKA Arena, Moscow.