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And they’re off …

04.09.2012

Just as in the play-off final, Dynamo Moscow and Avangard proved almost inseparable – with the Muscovites eventually winning the Opening Cup in a shoot-out following a topsy-turvy 2-2 tie in regulation time. Dynamo enjoyed the best of the extra time as the Blue-and-Whites looked to become the first team to win the KHL’s curtain raiser twice but although Mikhail Anisin hit the bar with the best chance of the added action the game went to a nerve-jangling shoot-out before Alexei Tsvetkov grabbed the decisive goal.

Pre-game memorial
Before the action started, the arena was united in memory of the players and staff of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl who were killed in last year’s air disaster. Against a shimmering backdrop of shining mobile phone screens, the names of those who died were picked out in a light show while Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” played in the background. Then, following a few words from league president Alexander Medvedev and a ceremonial dropping of the puck involving stars from the USSR vs Canada Summit Series, it was time for the action at last.

Early penalties
There was little evidence of the mourning ceremony dampening anyone’s enthusiasm for the game, and within a minute Anisin had picked up the first penalty of the new season after challenging a little too aggressively for a loose puck behind the Avangard goal. That set the tone for the early exchanges, with Dynamo pushed onto the back foot as the visitors probed for an opening. The breakthrough came on 7:24 when Anton Kuryanov carried Anssi Salmela’s pass over the blue line and smashed a wrist shot beyond Alexander Yeryomenko from the left channel. The goaltender, such an impressive figure in last year’s play-off final, may feel he should have done better with a long-range effort which was not coming through any goalmouth traffic.

Dynamo hits back
Early in the second session Yeryomenko made amends with a fine block as Igor Volkov went one-on-one, and gradually the flow of the game began to move Dynamo’s way. Anisin twice went close, and Filip Novak found Karri Ramo’s chest when space to shoot opened up in front of him. But as Avangard ran into penalty trouble, the home side turned the screws. Ex-Dynamo man Pavel Valentenko was in the sin-bin as Maxim Solovyov’s shot dropped kindly for Denis Kokarev to tie the game on 36:39. Almost immediately Dynamo had another powerplay, and after Tsvetkov went close, Anisin clipped the bar from tight angle. But the best chance for the host to complete the turnaround came right before the hooter when Yury Babenko was clipped by Andrei Taratukhin as he shaped to shoot. The subsequent penalty shot saw Dynamo’s captain beat Ramo but not the goalframe – the puck rebounded to safety off the angle of post and bar.

Slovak savior
Dynamo’s powerplay – one of the team’s weaknesses last season – delivered results again early in the third period when Ilya Gorokhov’s shot rebounded perfectly for Anisin to start this season as he ended the last – scoring goals. But that wasn’t enough for Dynamo to complete a comeback victory: a goal from Tomas Zaborsky on his KHL debut forced the game into overtime. Avangard captain Alexander Frolov led a breakaway and his pass from the right flank was turned home by the Slovak debutant to earn his team a temporary reprieve.