A week ago, it was difficult to imagine that the current Gagarin Cup winner would be one step away from relegation from the KHL playoffs. CSKA led Lokomotiv 3-1 and had one foot in the Western Conference Finals when they suddenly suffered two crushing defeats with a narrow score. And if in the fifth meeting the game was relatively equal, then in the sixth army men staged a real bombardment of Daniil Isaev's goal and twice threw the opponents (34:17), but still were beaten.

But despite this, it was the Muscovites who were considered the favorites of the seventh match. Literally everything spoke for them: the advantage of home ice, and the overall statistics of performances in key confrontations of the series, in five of the seven of which they prevailed. As well as the presence in the team of Nikita Nesterov, who never lost in the decisive meetings - twice he helped to achieve success of Traktor, four times - CSKA. And in the duel of mentors, everything was in favor of Fedorov. In the endgame, he never failed, while his colleague stumbled once. However, then he only acted as the head coach of Avangard.

And it was Nikitin who surprised with the choice of the composition. The coach unexpectedly left ivan Chekhovich in the reserves - the main character of the third match of the series. Then the former San Jose forward scored a hat trick, and the Railroaders won a crushing victory - the first in the semifinals of the conference. But he could not prove himself before a specialist and subsequently only twice passed into the base. At the same time, he was replaced by Artem Ilyenko, who, although he was not in the "minus", did not have a single point in his asset.

However, this did not save Lokomotiv from a fiasco in the debut. Within five minutes, CSKA twice upset Daniil Isaev and created a comfortable groundwork for itself. And if it is extremely difficult to blame the goalkeeper for the first goal (Anton Slepyshev famously put his stick under Andrei Svetlakov's cross), then in the case of the second he did not work in the best way. The goalkeeper did not follow the movement of the puck behind the net and missed into the "house" after Vitaly Abramov's shot from close range.

It is noteworthy that until that day, Slepyshev and Abramov were not only not among the top scorers of the red and blue, but also for a long time did not light their names on the scoreboard. So, the "dry" series of Anton was eight meetings, and Vitaly - seven.

In total, Isaev saved only three of the five shots in the first period, while Adam Reideborn coped with all 12. Yaroslavl expectedly rushed to rebound, but again and again bumped into the wall. Sergei Andronov was left without guardianship and shot powerfully into the near corner, and Alexander Elesin and Nikita Cherepanov made a great save from the blue line, but the Swede acted very confidently.

In the second period, the siege of CSKA's possessions continued. Lokomotiv dominated and regularly loaded Raideborn, forcing him to work wonders in the box. And even when the Swede was powerless, the puck still didn't cross the ribbon. After a crushing click by Maxim Shalunov, the post played for the goalkeeper, and a few minutes later Vladislav Kamenev did not allow Georgy Ivanov to close the cross to the spot.

As a result, by the 13th minute, Lokomotiv was more than three times better than CSKA in shots (17:5), but could not find the keys to Reideborn. It failed even in the majority, the chance to realize which Yaroslavl twice received since the beginning of the confrontation. It seemed that the guests were about to squeeze their opponents, but everything happened exactly the opposite. Isaev's first shot on target ended in a goal. A cross from the blue line baffled Isaev, and kamenev was ruthless on the finish.

At the end of the period, Lokomotiv's position was complicated by the loss of one of the defenders. Daniil Misyul was injured in a collision with Pavel Karnaukhov and for some time could not get to his feet. Only with the help of a partner and a doctor, he managed to leave the court and did not come out for the final 20 minutes. He was replaced by Alexei Kozhevnikov, who has never played in the Gagarin Cup to this day.

It is unlikely that it was Misyulyu's absence that affected Lokomotiv's game so much, but in the final period Yaroslavl came out demoralized. Despite the fact that it was they who conceded with a difference of three goals, it was CSKA who went ahead and in the fifth minute finally killed the intrigue. A multi-move involving Karnaukhov and Slepyshev ended with a pass to the spot, where Svetlakov was uncovered. Andrei did not fail and scored for the first time in the current playoffs.

But without a mistake from the young defender of Lokomotiv, it was still not enough. It was he who made a loss in his zone and allowed opponents to catch Isaev by surprise for the fifth time. The three-move combination with the participation of two Maxims - Mamin and Sorkin was completed by the top scorer of the Gagarin Cup - Mikhail Grigorenko (6 + 8).

CSKA crushed Lokomotiv and again passed the test with the seventh game, winning a ticket to the Western Conference Finals. There he will meet with the strongest team of the regular season and the owner of the Continental Cup - SKA.