ARENA RIGA – Janis Sprukts has hit home the winning goal in the 34th minute of overtime in front a packed-out Arena Riga on Saturday evening, giving Dinamo Riga a 2-1 lead over Torpedo in their best-of-seven playoff series.
Pekka Rautakallio's men fought gallantly in their first home game of the playoffs, fighting back from a two-goal deficit early in the second period to tie the game at three before Sprukts finally broke the deadlock after nearly an hour without a goal being scored.
The 10,730 fans that turned out Arena Riga were silenced early on as Torpedo came out firing, going ahead through Ilya Krikunov with less than a minute-and-a-half gone.
However on power play in the fifth minute Krisjanis Redlihs evened the ledger, striking from just inside the third, with the puck going straight between the legs of Torpedo goalie, Vitaly Koval.
Helping out with the assist was Krisjanis' brother Mikelis and Sprukts.
The assist was Mikelis' fourth to date in the playoffs, taking him to the top of the KHL in playoff points with six.
The high-scoring start to the game continued and in the 10th minute Ryan Vesce scored Torpedo's second goal of the night.
The situation started to look even more dire in the second period when Mikhail Varnokov added his team's third goal in the 25th minute and then two minutes later Martins Cipulis was sent from the ice for the remainder of the game for a dangerous check.
But Dinamo Riga dug deep and visibly lifted following the infraction.
On the resulting five minute power play following Cipulis' departue, Girts Ankipans brought the deficit back to one with a short-handed goal set up by Mikelis Redlihs and the third of the Mikelis brothers, Jekabs.
“It lit up our team. It really lit us up. It had a positive effect on us but it was on purpose,” Rautakallio told press after the game.
After defending for the remainder of the power play and another soon after, Marcel Hossa had the crowd on its feet once more, scoring the men in maroon's third goal in the 36th minute.
Providing the assist was Niclas Lucenius.
The home team suffered a slight setback early in the third period when Chris Holt left the ice with what appeared to be a back injury, leading to Maris Jucers entrance into the game for the all-important final 15 minutes.
Holt did not return for the remainder of the game and it is not yet clear if he will take to the ice for the crucial fourth game of the series tomorrow afternoon, also at Arena Riga.
“We are not sure what is going on. I will talk with the doctor tonight and we will know tomorrow,” Holt told the audience following the first period of overtime.
Jucers remained composed in his playoff debut, seeing off everything coming in his direction, but with his teammates unable to make use of any of the four power plays going in their favor at the other end of the ice, the game was going to overtime for the second consecutive game.
Dinamo Riga controlled play in the first 20 minutes of overtime, getting off 18 shots compared to 10 from their opponents as both teams with exhaustion becoming a major factor for both teams.
Despite the game dragging on, not a sole was leaving the stadium and they would be rewarded for their patience when Karsums set up for Sprukts 94 minutes after the opening face off.
Despite the loss, Torpedo coach Kari Jalonen has full faith in this team getting up for tomorrows clash. “Tomorrow is a new game,” Jalonen told media, adding, “everybody left a lot of energy on the ice but we just need to be ready again tomorrow at 5pm.”