The first minutes of the game for the Opening Cup were double-edged, but honestly, the visitors' play was sharper. They had two breakaways, a two-on-one counterattack – it all looked much more dangerous than the echelon, but unemphatic, attacks by Kazan. Dynamo were unable to take their advantage to its logical conclusion, forcing fans to remember the saying, “if you're not scoring, they'll be scoring on you.” But Ak Bars had absolutely nothing to score with. And so a second saying took effect: “a constant drip wears down the stone.” The visitors won a face-off to set in motion the first goal of the season, orchestrated by Mikhail Balandin in the 16th minute.

“The opportunity arose,” the defenseman modestly responded. “The puck bounced toward me after the face-off, I caught it and shot with the shaft. Our work on those shots in practice wasn't in vain.”

The home team continued to make mistakes in their defending zone, and half a minute later they were once again unable to help their goaltender survive the confusion by his net, with Juraj Kolnik scoring from the crowd of players.

Ak Bars looked lost. So lost that while on a power play, they allowed yet another breakaway on goalie Petri Vehanen, although the Finn fought to the bitter end. Kazan's defense, however, clearly earned a solid D for their performance in the first period. The offense gets a C-, since they answered the visitors' 16 shots on goal with six of their own. Oleg Znarok, on the other hand, could give A's to each of his lines, and he wouldn't be wrong to grade himself highly, too.

“We completely fulfilled the coach's game plan. He was pleased,” Alexei Ugarov said, sharing his thoughts on the game and his mentor's mood.

The start of the second period would have taken Kazan's grade down another notch. The offense didn't get aggressive, even when they had a power play, and the defense... Vehanen was spinning around like a squirrel in a cage, parrying shot after shot, but there was nothing he could do about Dominik Granak's goal in the 24th minute. That's because the shot was made on an essentially open net, and the defensemen didn't even try to interfere in the attack. Ak Bars were a man down at that moment, but that's absolutely no justification. When they were playing five on four, Kazan weren't even able to disturb Michael Garnett. The Opening Cup was gleaming behind the glass, but apparently it was only beckoning the visitors. For the hosts, it was nothing more than a mirage.

But Kazan finally woke up. They stepped up the tempo, although you couldn't really have called it that in the first period, and started pressing the guests. But that only meant the home team was able to stop goals from getting through. They were still too short on luck to score themselves.

Lady luck did smile on Ak Bars in the third period, but only long enough for them to open up the scoring. Janne Pesonen caught a puck reflected by Garnett in midair.

“We had a bad start,” Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said after the game. “We looked a bit better starting in the second period but were unable to score. Once the score was already 0-3, it was tough to change the course of the game.”

Djaudat Abdullin, special for


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