Friday, 3 March 2017

KHL - Playoffs - Round 1 - Lokomotiv Yaroslavl v Minsk - Lokomotiv Win Series 4-1

Game 1 - Lokomotiv v Minsk 2-1 - Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lokomotiv claimed the early initiative in this playoff series, but found it tough to break down a rugged Dinamo Minsk team that had chances to snatch victory on the road at the start of its post-season campaign. Eventually, third-period goals from Yegor Korshkov and Petri Kontiola proved good enough for the home team, delighting much of the 9,000-strong crowd in Yaroslavl. However, home goalie Alexei Murygin also had to be at his best to deny Dinamo at least a crack at overtime. Even as Loko dominated the first period, Murygin looked sharp to deny Matt Ellison early on and stop Sergei Kostitsyn late on. But most of the early action involved Loko probing for an opening, with Ben Scrivens called upon for a double save midway through the stanza to deny Alexander Kadeikin and Artyom Ilyenko in quick succession. The second period brought more of the same. Dinamo looked to play on the counter attack, Loko failed to turn possession into goals. The most glaring miss came in the 35th minute when Jakub Nakladal fired wide of an unguarded net. Some of the home crowd might have feared that this was not to be their day. Finally, Korshkov broke the deadlock in the 45th minute. Dinamo’s defense was undistinguished as Vladislav Gavrikov collected the puck behind the goal line and fed Pavel Kraskovsky on the slot. His attempted shot was blocked, but Korshkov picked up the rebound, drew Scrivens out of position and squeezed the puck home from a tight angle.
Murygin was back in action almost immediately to deny Rob Klinkhammer twice from close range, but a power play for the home team saw Kontiola double the off Brandon Kozun’s pass. Ellison reduced the deficit with eight minutes to play, scoring from a tight angle after Dmitry Korobov’s shot bounced off Murygin’s pads, but Dinamo could not find a way to tie the game.

Game 2 - Lokomotiv v Minsk 7-2 - Thursday, February 23, 2017

Two short-handed goals from Andrei Loktionov put the seal on a crushing victory as Lokomotiv took up a commanding position before this series moves to Belarus. He struck twice at the start of the third period, capitalizing on the failures of the Dinamo power play to pile on the misery for a Belarusian team that has never won a playoff series in the KHL era. But Loktionov’s contribution merely put the garnish on a powerful performance from Lokomotiv, with the home team effectively settling this game in the second period. Loko already had the lead thanks to Staffan Kronwall’s first-period power play goal, but Dinamo was causing problems. Andrei Stepanov hit the crossbar, and Matt Ellison missed a good chance to tie the scores before Loktionov fed Artyom Ilyenko for a lovely backhand finish to make it 2-0. After that, the home team took control. Jakub Nakladal unleashed a thunderbolt to make it 3-0 on the power play, Yegor Averin added a fourth and chase Ben Scrivens from the away net, then Nikita Komarov’s wild hit on Ilyenko set up another power play and saw Dmitry Lugin add a fifth. Then came Loktionov’s double. First, Rushan Rafikov’s reverse pass sent him off to the races and Kevin Lalande was slow to react. Then, barely two minutes later, Dinamo earned another power play, lost out at the first face off and watched on as Alexander Kadeikin released Loktionov for another successful duel with Lalande. Dinamo got a consolation goal from the same power play through Dmitry Korobov, and Matt Ellison added a second for the visitor. But Craig Woodcroft and his team will need to find some answers on home ice if they are to be competitive in the rest of this series.
Game 3 - Minsk v Lokomotiv 1-5 - Saturday, February 25, 2017

A powerful finish to the first period put Lokomotiv on track for a third successive victory and saw Alexei Kudashov’s team on the brink of reaching the next round. Penalty trouble plagued Dinamo Minsk in the opening session, preventing Craig Woodcroft’s team from making the bright start it was seeking as it looked to start turning this series around on home ice. Instead, a lively start dissipated when Loko gained a 5-on-3 power play. Dinamo killed the first penalty but could not prevent Staffan Kronwall from opening the scoring in the ninth minute. Just as the home team felt that it was gaining a foothold in the game, Lokomotiv took it out of reach with two goals in the last two minutes of the stanza. Jakub Nakladal made it 2-0, forcing home the rebound after Max Talbot was denied by Ben Scrivens. Then Talbot himself added a third on the power play. The middle stanza was dominated by a series of minor penalties, preventing either team from establishing a rhythm to its play. Alexander Polunin added a fourth for Lokomotiv, despite Dinamo having far more opportunities. With the game effectively over, the tempo dropped a little in the third period. Dinamo got a goal back in the 52nd minute through Evgeny Lisovets. For Dinamo, however, a best-ever showing in the regular season doesn’t seem to be enough to inspire the team to its first ever KHL playoff series victory. Lokomotiv is already just one win away from the Conference semi-finals.
Game 4 - Minsk v Lokomotiv 4-2 - Monday, February 27, 2017

Dinamo finally got a win in this series, saving itself from a sweep in the first phase of the playoffs and taking the action back to Yaroslavl for a fifth game on Wednesday. After disappointing in the early stages of its playoff campaign, the Belarusian team knew that tonight had to be the night if it was going to repay any of the faith placed in it by a fanatical Minsk public. And, this time, Dinamo did not disappoint. The first period was short on chances, Dinamo mustered just four shots on goal, but long on clinical finishing as two of those attempts found the net. Andrei Stepanov opened the scoring on the power play in the 10th minute, converting a 5-on-3 advantage when he fired home Sergei Kostitsyn’s pass to the far post. Alexander Pavlovich added a second in the 17th minute, pouncing on a loose puck in Dinamo’s end and racing up the ice to beat Alexei Murygin. If the opening stanza, which saw Dinamo take the lead for the first time at any stage of this series, delighted the home crowd, the second offered cause for concern. A breakdown on the home power play saw Loko get its third short-handed goal of the series when Yegor Averin fed Daniil Apalkov on a counter-attack in the 24th minute. The teams quickly traded two more goals: Evgeny Kovyrshin for Dinamo, Alexander Kadeikin for Loko. The mood was tense, the game tight. Ben Scrivens, in the home net, was performing wonders to preserve his team’s lead. Then another breakaway, Alexander Materukhin pulling the strings, and Andrei Stas scored on Murygin at the second attempt. A two-goal lead, and some protection against the relentless Lokomotiv pressure. The third period followed the pattern of the first two, with Lokomotiv doing most of the attacking and Dinamo, Scrivens in particular, keeping the visitor at bay. This time, it worked out. No further goals and a victory that keeps the Belarusians’ hopes alive for at least one more game.
Game 5 - Lokomotiv v Minsk - 4-1 Wednesday, March 01, 2017
Lokomotiv joined SKA and CSKA in the Conference Semi-finals with a comfortable victory at home to Dinamo Minsk. The Railwaymen clinched a 4-1 series victory despite giving up an early lead in Wednesday’s game, condemning the Belarusians to yet another first-round exit in post season. Dinamo, aware that only victory would keep its playoff campaign alive, absorbed some early Lokomotiv pressure before taking the lead in the 12th minute. Dmitry Korobov dumped the puck behind the net, Rob Klinkhammer gave chase and, with Loko’s defense a beat behind the play, found a way to score one the wraparound. But play behind the net was tricky for both defenses. Ben Scrivens looked to clear the puck from his territory only for Brandon Kozun to intercept. The play went back to Petri Kontiola, whose pass picked out Staffan Kronwall with the time and space to rip home a wrister and tie the game. The second period saw Lokomotiv tighten the screws. The home team had far more possession and territory, and might have added more goals to Pavel Koledov’s go-ahead marker in the 36th minute. Denis Mosalyov hit the bar and drew a good save from Scrivens in a separate incident, Kontiola had a dangerous solo break and Yegor Averin tested the visiting goalie late in the stanza. It took time to make the game safe, especially with Dinamo beginning the third period strongly. Jakub Nakladal had to be alert to stifle a 2-on-1 break-out, and Alexei Murygin was at his best to deny Sergei Kostitsyn when the Belarusian forward had a good chance on the slot. By the 49th minute, the pressure was starting to worry Lokomotiv and the home team called a time-out in the hope of calming the situation. Alexei Kudashov’s decision paid off. A penalty on Dinamo’s Nikita Komarov gave Lokomotiv the chance it needed, and 10 seconds later Kozun fired home a Kronwall pass to establish a 3-1 lead that was good enough to settle the game. Max Talbot added an empty-net goal to wrap things up – 4-1 on the night, and 4-1 in the series.

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