Some of the KHL’s most feared goalscorers were on the mark tonight – but young Eeli Tolvanen of Jokerit led the way with the first hat-trick of the season. The 18-year-old had a dream debut at this level as he inspired his team to a 6-1 win at Dinamo Minsk. SKA went one better, scoring seven on Slovan, but Metallurg slipped to a 2-5 loss at home to Avtomobilist, despite Sergei Mozyakin opening his account for the season. CSKA followed up its loss on the opening day with a shoot-out win at Loko, becoming the first team to succeed in the new post-game format.
Sergei Mozyakin keeps on scoring, but Metallurg went down to a surprise defeat in its opening game of the season. Anatoly Golyshev inspired Avtomobilist to victory in Magnitogorsk – sending out a warning to the Eastern Conference that Avto could be in a higher gear this season.
The visitor took the lead in the 12th minute when Alexei Mikhnov converted an Artyom Gareyev pass to the slot, but Mozyakin tied the scores within a minute on the power play, battling his way in from the board and beating Jakub Kovar in the top corner. And once Matt Ellison marked his Metallurg debut with a short-handed goal late in the second period, forced home a loose puck after Oskar Osala went around the net, it seemed that Magnitka would find a way to win this one.
Instead, though, Avtomobilist roared back in the final stanza with four unanswered goals. Andrei Obidin tied the scores with his first ever KHL goal, before Golyshev grabbed the game-winner a minute later. Taylor Beck fired the puck to the crease from out wide, and Golyshev for his stick to it after it bounced off Vasily Koshechkin’s pads.
Osala had a great chance to tie the game with about 10 minutes left, but was denied by Jakub Kovar, and Alexander Kucheryavenko made Metallurg pay when his shot deflected of Biryukov’s skate and went past Koshechkin for 4-2. Ex-Magnitka man Francis Pare wrapped it up with an empty-netter; delight for Avto, but plenty for the home team to ponder after its first game of the season.
Traktor made a winning start to the season thanks to an early goal and a late one at Lada. Paul Szczechura opened the scoring in the seventh minute, the experienced Canadian beginning his second campaign with the Chelyabinsk club by adding to the 41 points he mustered for Traktor last time around.
Fifty minutes later, young Artyom Penkovsky made it 2-0, scoring on the power play to underline the victory. In between, Lada managed some pressure on the visitor’s net, but Vasily Demchenko made 24 saves to deny the Motormen.
The game ended with controversy: Charles Genoway was penalized for handling the puck as he tried to keep play in the Traktor end, and Lada forward Nikita Filatov was ejected from the game for his angry reaction to the officials’ decision.
You’ve probably never heard of Eeli Tolvanen before. The 18-year-old Finn has never played in the KHL in the past but has carved out a reputation for himself in Finland’s age-group teams and two successful seasons with the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL. Then came the bombshell – no place at Boston College to continue his development across the Atlantic, and a move back home rather than scrap for position in the depths of the Predators organization.
On tonight’s evidence, that move is going to be just the job. Tolvanen marked his KHL bow with a hat-trick in the third period, his dream debut turning Gordie Dwyer’s first game in charge of Dinamo into a nightmare. Scouting reports from North America suggested that the teenager was a lethal sniper, and he showed just why with a ruthless finish from the deep slot for his second goal. He’s also regarded as handy man on the power play, and his zinger of a shot late on to make it 6-1 underlined that point. Showing even more teen spirit, Tolvanen also had an assist.
Tolvanen’s success overshadowed an effective performance from another Jokerit debutant, Niklas Jensen. The Dane scored a goal and an assist, including the game-winner, while Brian O’Neill opened the scoring and had two assists of his own.
On a miserable night for Dinamo, only new signing Quinton Howden had any cause for celebration: he scored the Bisons’ only goal of a game to forget.
Two goals from Ilya Kovalchuk led the way as SKA rolled to its second win of the season.
The home team powered to a comfortable victory despite allowing Slovan to grab a first-period lead in Petersburg. Marek Viedensky stunned the home crowd with a 17th-minute strike for the visitor, winning the puck out on the boards and advancing to shoot home from the right-hand circle.
But Slovan’s joy did not last long. Nikolai Prokhorkin made it two goals in two games to tie the scores early in the middle session before Pavel Datsyuk chipped in with a goal – a deflection close to the net off Artyom Zub’s shot – and an assist – on Ilya Kovalchuk’s thunderous shot from wide left – to put SKA in control of the game.
In the third period, Sergei Shirokov got his second goal of the season before Datsyuk and Kovalchuk combined again to make it 5-1. Slovan’s suffering continued until the very end as Nikita Gusev added two more in the last couple of minutes. The campaign may be just three days old, but the league table and the scoring race is already assuming a familiar look.
This season brings a new shoot-out format to the KHL, with post-game shots now starting with a best-of-five affair rather than the best-of-three attempts seen in the past. Lokomotiv and CSKA were the first teams to test the new way of doing things, and the Army Men found it to their liking.
Kirill Kaprizov converted the first attempt of the new, extended shoot-out, before Ilya Sorokin denied Brandon Kozun, Alexander Kadeikin and Staffan Kronwall. Greg Scott converted CSKA’s fourth attempt, making it 2-0 and piling the pressure on Denis Mosalyov for the home team. Denis was menaced, Sorokin made the save and CSKA bounced back from Monday’s defeat at SKA with a win here.
Earlier, Kaprizov got his first goal for his new club, firing home a one-timer off Nikita Nesterov’s feed late in the first period. That was a scant reflection of CSKA’s dominance of the opening session; the visitor had a 14-5 lead on the shot count but waited until 19:51 before beating Murygin.
The middle session was closer, with Loko levelling the scores midway through. Denis Alexeyev got the goal, ironically with a penalty shot. Sorokin learned from the experience, and proved unbeatable in the shoot-out later on. The third period was tense, with few chances at either end, and the game moved into overtime and that historic shoot-out.
CSKA’s city rival also enjoyed the new shoot-out format, defeating Vityaz in the same fashion. Dynamo even had a similar scoring sequence, converting its first attempt through Daniil Tarasov and its fourth through Juuso Hietanen, while Vityaz failed four times.
But the preceding 65 minutes was a bit different as the lead changed hands repeatedly in a wild encounter in Moscow. Vityaz took the lead in the fourth minute through Alexei Semenov, only for Dynamo to level thanks to Komarov. That’s a resonant name in Blue-and-White history, but this time it was no returning Leo but a new signing, Nikita, just arrived from Dinamo Minsk.
The home team went in front just before the intermission through Andrei Alexeyev, a youth team graduate hoping to establish himself in the KHL after managing just 22 games since his debut in 2014-15. Dynamo’s new-look line-up was showing some promise.
Vityaz, though, got back on top in the middle frame. Two goals in 65 seconds from Alexei Kopeikin and Alexander Pankov turned the game around. Tarasov tied the scores on a power play early in the third, and the game remained deadlocked until the shoot-out.