The return of Alexander Ovechkin to Dynamo Moscow was the big pre-game talking point: the Washington Capitals star, and poster-boy of the NHL, had chosen his boyhood club ahead of the oil wealth of city rivals CSKA, and that brought a bigger than average crowd to Luzhniki to welcome the Team Russia forward home with a 7-2 win over Dinamo Minsk.
But Dinamo Minsk was in no mood to respect the celebrity lining up in the opposition, twice stunning the home side by taking the lead while Ovechkin gradually built up an understanding with his new strike partners Mikhail Anisin and Konstanin Gorovikov. Geoff Platt’s opener, picking his spot over the shoulder of Alexei Volkov to finish a swift counter-attack separated the teams at the first interval, with Ovechkin reduced to one dangerous attack from the left flank which ended with a shot flashing wide of the goal.
The Moscow team finally got on the scoresheet on its first powerplay early in the second, with Dominik Granak and Anisin combining well to set up Filip Novak. But the relief was short-lived: Andrei Stas put Minsk back in front within a minute, only for Maxim Solovyov to complete two action-packed minutes by tying it up again at 2-2 on 23:42. Ovi caught the eye with a couple of trademark swoops on goal, but it was Richard Gynge and Konstantin Kasyanchuk who put the home side in control before the end of the second stanza.
A further powerplay goal early on 48:19 from Sergei Soin stretched Dynamo’s advantage before Ovechkin finally opened his personal account of 4:38 with an assist on Alexei Tsvetkov’s goal as the crowd sent his name ringing around the Luzhniki rink once more. Denis Kokarev completed the rout as an irresistible Dynamo celebrated Ovechkin’s return in style.
Zinovyev treble spoils Malkin’s day
It should have been all about Evgeny Malkin’s return to his home town club – but Sergei Zinovyev gatecrashed the party in emphatic style. The Salavat Yulaev forward grabbed a hat-trick – including the over-time winner – to shoot down Malkin’s Magnitka in Ufa. It wasn’t a totally unsuccessful return for the team Russia star, though – he did claim an assist on Enver Lisin’s last-minute goal to force a 3-3 tie, while fellow NHL refugee Sergei Gonchar also had an assist when Yaroslav Kosov gave Magnitka a 2-1 lead early in the second. But then Zinovyev got to work to abruptly rewrite the expected script.
After the game, Malkin told reporters that he had found it tough on his debut, despite the fact that he and had team had battled to the last seconds. “I think the fans will be happy with the game, but it was hard for me,” he said. “After all, it’s my first game this season – and it’s good to get started right away. I didn’t play as well as I’d have liked, but I hope it will get easier in the next game.”
For Magnitogorsk coach Paul Maurice, who also has Nikolai Kulemin in his ranks, the task is now to find a way of incorporating his new talents into his team, starting at Ak Bars on Saturday.
Not just Russians …
The KHL hasn’t only attracted Russian NHLers to its team: Lev Prague – a surprise pacesetter in the West – strengthened further with the capture of Jiri Hudler and Jakub Voracek. And the pair made their debuts in a 3-1 win over Avangard Omsk, with Voracek getting the assist on Jiri Novotny’s game-winner. Jakub Klepis then added an empty net goal to go with his first-period opener. Alexander Nesterov equalized for Avangard, but to no avail.
NHL signings might be making most of the headlines, but it was a North American trio long established in distant Kazakhstan which threatened to spring a surprise at CSKA Moscow. With big name captures Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Bryzgalov sitting it out for the visit of Barys Astana, it was Brandon Bochenski, Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boyd who caught the eye, combining to score twice in the second period and give Barys a 2-1 lead. Earlier Denis Parshin had opened the scoring for CSKA, but it was to be the visitor’s day, with the 3-1 win confirmed in the dying seconds by Konstantin Rudenko.
Six of the best in Kazan
Ak Bars put on a four-star show in the final period to sink Traktor Chelyabinsk 6-2. The teams had been locked at 2-2 after two hard-fought sessions, but the Tatar side outlasted its opponent to delight the home crowd in the closing stages. Kirill Petrov grabbed what proved to be the winning goal, before Alexei Tereshchenko added a goal to his two assists on the night and Artyom Lukoyanov and Denis Kulyash completed the scoring.
Around the league
Two goals in the third period took Severstal Cherepovets to a 5-3 win at Metallurg Novokuznetsk. Gennady Stolyarov got the game-winner before Mikko Lehtonen’s second of the game made the points safe.
Jori Lehtera, the KHL’s leading point-scorer, got the shoot-out winner for Sibir Novosibirsk after a 2-2 tie with Vityaz Chekhov in Siberia.
Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg edged the verdict over Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk by the odd goal in seven. Denis Sokolov got the game-winner early in the third, making it 4-1, but Yugra’s Dmitry Altaryov struck twice to ensure a tense finish.