ARENA RIGA – The return of Chris Holt to the Dinamo Riga goal has been a timely one with the crowd favorite leading his team to a 3-1 victory over Torpedo on Thursday night to keep their Western Conference best-of-seven quarter-final series alive.
Coming into the sixth game of the series, the equation was simple for Pekka Rautakallio's team: win and live to see another day, lose and begin preparing for next season.
With so much on the line and in front of another loyal turn out, Dinamo Riga were doing their best to ease Holt into the match following a two-game absence by only allowing four shots to be sent in his direction in the opening 20 minutes.
As has been the case throughout the series, Dinamo Riga were creating plenty of chances at the other end of the ice with 12 shots on target in the opening third, but they simply could not find a way to pierce the Torpedo defense.
The breakthrough finally came via Jekabs Redlihs in the 25th minute with the defenseman benefiting from the build up work done by his brother Mikelis and Martins Karsums.
Soon after however, an infraction from Jekabs Redlihs was enough to allow Torpedo back into the game with the Nizhny Novgorod club tying the game back up through Ilya Krikunov in the 36th minute.
Ironically, the final period of the game turned out to be one of the few in the series to date in which Dinamo Riga would move further ahead despite having less shots on goal.
Picking up his second assist of the game and his 10th point of the playoff series, Mikelis Redlihs and captain Sandis Ozolins combined to assist Janis Sprukts to break the deadlock in the 46th minute.
The goal marked Sprukt's fifth of the playoffs, taking his points tally to eight.
With the pressure on in the dying stages, Torpedo were forced to remove Vitaly Koval from the ice, leaving them on a six-on-five rush.
However, the move backfired as Marcel Hossa was left facing an empty net to put the game beyond reach with a little over a minute remaining.
The win mark's Dinamo Riga's first in regular time in the series.
“The boys played so hard I did not have to do much,” commented Holt following the game, adding, “we played for the fans today and now we are going to bring it home.”
They will have the chance to bring it home when they return to Nizhny Novgorod for the seventh and deciding game on Saturday night.