Mozyakin lifts CSKA to a fourth straight win

FEB.26 (SAINT-PETERSBURG, RHI) -- Sergei Mozyakin's hot stretch continued Tuesday night on the ice of Saint-Petersburg's Ice Palace. Pint-sized sniper, a 9th round pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2002, scored his eleventh goal of the season with less than three minutes left to play in the final period, as CSKA defeated SKA for the third time this season and won its fourth consecutive game. The tally was Mozyakin's fourth over the last five games - the exact date he came back from a severe facial injury sustained in November. He also has eight points during that spell.

Viktor Tikhonov's side now trails ranked eight Ufa by just three points. A win next Friday against Novosibirsk may propel this young squad to the play-off position, however CSKA's coaching staff are quite relaxed with the issue.

"Let's not forget that this team played in the High League, as recently as last season. We have many talented youngsters in our club and nobody (including club management) expects us to get (in the play-offs)," - says Vasily Tikhonov, the son of Viktor and CSKA's assistant coach. "Establishing ourselves in the Superleague (in other words avoiding relegation) was a premier priority. We never stressed to our players that making play-offs is imperative, however what we always asked of them is to play for victory no matter the occasion and the opponents we're facing."

Watching CSKA play as a neutral spectator, but as a fan of the game you can't go wrong with the assumption that this team would be much more interesting to follow in the post season that the rest of the bunch that currently fights for the final spot in the top eight. CSKA is playing an offense oriented game and its high profile youngsters have the green light for improvisation. Tikhonov's hockey is refreshing when compared to the likes of Ufa and Nizhnekamsk who accent their success on boring defensive systems.

While CSKA has pretty much secured its' place in RSL for next season, Boris Mikhailov's St.Petersburg continues its intense battle for live in the Superleague. Despite Tuesday's disappointing loss in front of ten thousand fans, SKA remains at the safe 14th spot, ahead by four points over another team with great past and rich traditions - Moscow Spartak.

"We're in quite critical situation," - said SKA captain Alexei Koznev after the game. "However I'm confident that we'll achieve our goal. (Against CSKA) we played one of our best games this season. Unfortunately it seemed we were out of lack late in the game. First we allowed them to go ahead and than failed to equalize despite several great chances."

Cheered by impressive crowd the home side came out strong outshoting CSKA 5-1 in game's opening three minutes. Koznev put them ahead at 3:07 with his 10th tally of the season. Rearguard Andrei Kozyrev took a hard shot from the point, but missed the target - the puck hit the boards behind the net and weirdly bounced in the slot right on Koznev's stick who had an open corner to pick, as CSKA's netminder Dusan Salficky didn't get back in position on time.

Salficky registered shut-outs in three straight games prior to Tuesday and therefore his unbeaten stint was snapped at 185 minutes and 05 seconds. He fell 55 minutes short of establishing the all-time RSL record, held by current Moscow Dynamo goalie Vitaly Eremeev. However the goal by Koznev was the only one he gave up in the game, registering 21 saves for his 15th victory in just 33 starts.

"You wouldn't believe, but I was relieved with that early goal," - said Salficky. "The thought about going for the record bugged me too much prior to the game, but once they got one past me I was able to fully concentrate and do my job."

CSKA equalized at 15:56. St.Louis Blues prospect Alexei Shkotov scored while his team had an extra skater on the ice with a delayed penalty call pending on SKA. Highly skilled Shkotov scored just his third goal of the season, but same as the first two this one was a dandy. 18-year old speedster firmly undressed defender Anton Babchuk, cut to the net from his off wing and lifted the puck to the topshelve past sprawled Sergei Naumov who desperately tried to poke-check the disk away from Alexei.

"To go past Babchuk wasn't a hard thing to do," - shouted excited Shkotov. "I used to play with him in Elektrostal and in the U-18 (National) teams. He's big all right, but not very quick and agile."

An exciting and pacy first period was followed by long and hard fought second. Referees teared apart game's pace with a flurry of calls, as teams rarely found themselves playing 5 on 5.

In the third period the home side had a bit of an advantage. But at the end of the day it was Mozyakin who decided the game in favor of CSKA. He scored in a skirmish in front of Naumov's net, pushing the puck behind the goal line after Latvian netminder failed to contain Dmitry Subbotin's shot.

"The way teams played in the third period, it was apparent that the first to score will win it all," - said Viktor Tikhonov. Nevertheless with 36 seconds to go SKA's Alexei Tsvetkov missed a wide open net from the side of the crease. Koznev had another glorious chance to sent the game with 4 secs left on the clock - but was stunned by Salficky.

PROSPECTS NOTES

Konstantin Baranov, property of the Philadelphia Flyers, was a healthy scratch following an erratic performance against Spartak... CSKA lost Shkotov and Vadim Khomitsky (Dallas) late in the game. Shkotov's injury wasn't very serious and he should be able to play next Friday against Sibir. Khomitsky was hit by the puck to the neck and while it appeared to be serious at first, Vadim was feeling all right after the game... Shkotov mentioned that he's likely to play for CSKA next season. Dusan Salficky meantime claims that he has several offers from the NHL and may give it another try next fall.

OUT OF TOWN SCORES

Lokomotiv 2, Metallurg Mg 2 - Yaroslavl's 11 games winning streak snapped.
Severstal 5, Salavat Yulaev 3 - Ruslan Nurtdinov scored twice, has 18 on the year and co-leads the league in scoring with Igor Grigorenko and teammate Yuri Dobryshkin.
Ak Bars 0, Dinamo 2 - Vadim Plyuschev is becoming highly unpopular in Kazan, as Ak Bars lost third straight game since he took over as the head coach.
Spartak 2, Amur 2 - Andrei Medvedev was again in goal for Spartak.

Avangard 1, Lada 4. Mechel 2, Metallurg Nk 0. Krylia Sovetov 2, Neftekhimik 3 (OT). Molot-Prikamie 3, Sibir 1.

PHOTO FACT
 
Photo (c) www.severstalclub.ru
FEB.25 -- Severstal's youngsters Yuri Trubachev (#15) and Evgeny Isakov (#45) chace the puck into the corners against Salavat Yulaev on Tuesday. Severstal won 5-3.

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