Narrow win for Avangard

Avangard Omsk 1 Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk 0

A single goal from Joonas Ahnelov was enough to give Fyodor Kanareikin a winning start to life as Avangard’s head coach.

The Hawks had a hard time breaking down a resilient Ugra team, mustering just six shots on goal in the first period and only 20 in total. Ahnelov’s breakthrough came early in the second with a well-placed wrister from the point beating Vladislav Fokin.

The home team failed to capitalize on that advantage, still struggling to get clear sights of Fokin’s net, but Ugra was unable to find a way back into the game. In the final period, with the visitor trying to chase an equalizer, Avangard’s defense allowed just three shots on Dominik Furch’s net as the team ground out a narrow victory.

Surprise defeat for SKA

Traktor Chelyabinsk 2 SKA St. Petersburg 1 (OT)

It should have been a triumphant return for Pavel Datsyuk, back in his homeland and playing in the KHL for the first time since the lock-out of 2012-13. Instead, though, Traktor snatched an overtime win thanks to a far less heralded summer signing.

Kirill Koltsov, a Gagarin Cup winner in 2011, didn’t make many headlines when he moved from Torpedo to Traktor this summer. But the 33-year-old D-man, who once had a stint at SKA, was part of some astute trading in the Southern Urals and game one reinforced the positives from Traktor’s pre-season. Facing a star-studded SKA roster coached by Oleg Znarok and expected to be a dominant force this season, Traktor refused to step back.

Paul Szczechura, another summer arrival in Chelyabinsk opened the scoring in the seventh minute and Traktor held that lead until shortly after the midway point, when Evgeny Dadonov tied the scores off a Vadim Shipachyov pass following a defensive mistake.

Neither side could find a winner in regulation but Koltsov settled it midway through the extras, firing home from close range off Alexander Chernikov’s assist. That was Traktor’s first shot on target in overtime after SKA set the pace for much of the extras, but it was enough to claim an impressive opening win for the home team.

1000_11_20160823_SPT_JOK_VNB 9.jpg

Great Danes give Jalonen a winning return

Spartak Moscow 1 Jokerit Helsinki 2

Jukka Jalonen’s return to the KHL as head coach of Jokerit gave him an opening game in Moscow, where a new-look Spartak was hoping to improve on last season’s failure to reach the playoffs. And while Spartak, unusually playing a home game at the VTB Arena more often used by Dynamo, made the brighter start, Jokerit’s Danish duo turned the game around in the closing minutes.

The opening stages were evenly matched and it wasn’t until midway through the second period that Spartak broke the deadlock. Ryan Stoa, a summer arrival from Neftekhimik, got the goal on the power play in the 34th minute.

That lead lasted long enough for the Red-and-Whites to feel that victory was within reach, but their hopes were dashed when Danish international D-man Oliver Lauridsen marked his Jokerit debut with the equalizing goal in the 49th minute. His shot from the blue line came through traffic to bamboozle Markus Svensson between the piping for Spartak.

The winner came five minutes later when Charles Genoway’s shot from the blue line got tangled up in a crowd scene on the slot and dropped for another Dane, forward Peter Regin, to squeeze his shot home from a tight angle even as Svensson’s dive dislodged the net from its moorings. That was enough to give the Finns the verdict despite a frantic effort from Spartak in the dying seconds.

Rough start for Sibir

Sibir Novosibirsk 3 Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg 5

Sibir’s young goalie Alexei Krasikov started his first ever KHL game as Czech international Alexander Salak began the suspension he was handed at the end of last season – but the prospect finished on the wrong end of a high-scoring defeat.

The 20-year-old had a tough introduction to life in the big league, picking the puck out of his net after just 87 seconds following Alexander Torchenyuk’s opener. Another Sibir debutant, forward Joonas Kemppainen, tied the game but Torchenyuk struck again to give the visitor the lead at the first intermission.

Penalty trouble midway through the second ultimately sunk Sibir. Power play goals for Petr Koukal and Dmitry Monya – the latter assisted by the impressive Torchenyuk – stretched the lead to 4-1 and left Sibir with too much ground to make up.

The Siberians tried hard, making it a one-goal game through Artyom Voroshilo and summer signing Evgeny Artyukhin but Jan Buchtele’s empty-netter gave Avto the win. Krasikov lasted the whole game, making 33 saves but could not start on a winning note.

Around the league

Veteran D-man Konstantin Korneyev made an immediate impact on his Salavat Yulaev debut, claiming the game-winner in a 3-2 success at home to Severstal. The former CSKA and Ak Bars blue-liner struck in the 46th minute to make it 3-1, and while that two-goal cushion lasted just 35 seconds before Evgeny Mons reduced the deficit, Severstal could not force overtime. Earlier Alexander Loginov and Stepan Khripunov put Salavat 2-0 in front before Vitaly Sitnikov’s 26th-minute goal got Severstal back in contention.

Jiri Sekac was another game-winning debutant as his Ak Bars team edged Slovan 2-1 in Kazan. Sekac grabbed a short-handed goal off an assist from his former Lev Prague colleague Justin Azevedo late in the second, adding to Mikhail Varnakov’s opener in the 31st minute. Slovan hit back through Ivan Svarny, who got a power play goal seconds after Sekac’s short-handed effort. But the Slovaks could not find a way through in the third period and the host held on to make a winning start to the season.

Medvescak began its season with an entertaining victory at Lada thanks to a late goal from Derek Smith. The defenseman struck on the power play in the 56th minute, beating Ilya Ezhov with his third attempt from the blue line to snap a 2-2 tie. Earlier Mark Katic had given Medvescak a very early lead, only for Lada to turn the game around thanks to Georgy Belousov and Viktor Komarov. Gilbert Brule tied it up early in the third before Smith’s decisive strike.

HC Sochi made a fast start to the season, racing into a 2-0 lead inside five minutes of its game at home to Dinamo Riga. Ilya Krikunov got both of them, and when Igor Ignatushkin made it 3-0 in the 16th minute it seemed that Dinamo could be facing a rout. The Latvians did not buckle, though, taking the game to Sochi in the middle frame and clawing back one goal thanks to a debut marker from Canadian forward Colton Gillies. In the final frame Dinamo dominated, only to find home goalie Konstantin Barulin in fine form. He finished with 31 saves on the night, 13 of them in the final stanza.

After a controversial pre-season, Barys began its KHL campaign with a 2-4 defeat at Metallurg Novokuznetsk. First-period goals from Kirill Lebedev and Ignat Zemchenko gave Kuznya the early initiative, but Barys hit back early in the second when new signing Cam Barker and Ivan Kuchin tied the game. It was still level going into the third but Kirill Semyonov snapped a 2-2 tie early in the final stanza and Alexander Komaristy made the points safe in the last two minutes. Even without Damir Ryspaev, Barys managed to get embroiled into two fights. Roman Savchenko tangled with Evgeny Viksna in the 51st minute before Nigel Dawes and Alexei Vasilchenko got their rumble on with three seconds left on the clock.