Zinetula Bilyaletdinov and Mike Keenan are two of the most experienced and titled coaches in the world – so when they went head-to-head in Kazan, it was no surprise that we enjoyed an intriguing tactical battle. This time, coach Bill had the edge over Iron Mike, but Kunlun took an absorbing game to Ak Bars.
Elsewhere, Sibir, Neftekhimik and Avangard all picked up their second wins of the week, Barys made a successful start to life after Bochenski and Torpedo’s new faces contributed to victory at Ugra.
Alexander Salak made 33 saves to frustrate Dinamo Riga’s offense – then Alexander Bergstrom snatched Sibir’s second victory of the season late on in Novosibirsk.
The 2-1 scoreline was harsh on the Latvians, who dominated long periods of the game. So imposing was Dinamo’s control, the team had more than twice as many shots as the host. But Salak rendered that stat irrelevant with a fine display between the piping. In the first period he made 17 saves, while Sibir mustered just three attempts of its own, and when Dinamo did get the puck past the goalie, the post came to Salak’s rescue.
In the middle stanza, penalty trouble wrested the initiative away from Dinamo and Sibir converted a 5-on-3 power play thanks to Igor Levitsky’s goal in the 25th minute. But once back to equal strength, Riga rallied and continued to dominate, finally getting its reward when Danny Cristo potted his first ever KHL goal shortly before the intermission. The 27-year-old American, signed from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, shot through Salak’s five-hole to tie the game.
Dinamo couldn’t build on that, though. The third period produced few chances, but when Ivan Vereshchagin’s pass sprang the Riga defense, Bergstrom cashed in. He still had plenty to do, getting away from Cristo on the blue line then evading the attentions of Karl Stollery
For the second game running, Severstal lost in overtime. And, for the second game running, it was a defensive howler that presented the winning goal to the opposition. This time Yury Trubachyov made the costly blunder, hitting a casual clearance that Avangard’s Andre Petersson was able to intercept and put beyond goalie Julius Hudacek to win it just 21 seconds into the extras.
That was Petersson’s first goal since moving from Sochi to Omsk, and it was the only goal of a tight game. Neither team created many chances in regulation, although Severstal’s defensive approach allowed the visitor to have the edge on the shot count over the first two periods before Avangard managed to get a bit more of the game in the third. Even so, the teams traded just 41 shots in 60 minutes, with Dominik Furch finished with 20 saves for his shut-out.
Avangard maintains its winning start to the season; for Severstal, once again, a battling performance earned one point, but was undone by an individual error.
Following the departure of Brandon Bochenski and Dustin Boyd over the summer, Barys was expecting much more from Marty St. Pierre in the coming campaign. The 34-year-old Canadian had a pair of respectable seasons in Astana, producing 66 points across the two of them, but now it was time for him to step up to the top line and replace the scoring of his former colleagues.
On the evidence of his first game of the season, the additional responsibility could be working for him. St. Pierre scored both goals in his team’s 2-0 victory, shooting down Spartak as the new-look Barys first line enjoyed a successful start. The opener came in the 40th minute when St. Pierre scored off a rebound following a shot from debutant Linden Vey. It was a deserved lead – Barys had taken 32 shots up to that point, but found it tough to get past Nikita Bespalov.
The third period continued that pattern: Barys pressed, Bespalov denied, Spartak struggled to find chances. But it wasn’t until the last minute and an empty-net goal on the power play from St. Pierre that Barys secured victory in its opening game, helped by 34 saves from Henrik Karlsson. Spartak, under new head coach Vadim Yepanchintsev, slips to 0-2 at the start of the season.
Torpedo made a winning start to the season on the road at Ugra, scoring a goal in each period to sink the host.
Gennady Stolyarov opened the scoring in the first period, marking the start of his second spell for Torpedo with the final touch on a slap shot from another new arrival, Tomas Kundratek. Then Kirill Rasskazov doubled the lead in the second.
Anton Korolyov, Ugra’s two-goal hero on Tuesday, got his third of the season on a power play midway through the final stanza but there was no way back for Ugra. Late on Stolyarov combined with Denis Parshin – another summer signing – to set up an empty net goal for Vladimir Galuzin.
Ak Bars began its opening game of the season by celebrating two legendary Kazan coaches, Anatoly Muravyov and Vsevolod Yelfimov, but Kunlun was in no mood to keep the party atmosphere alive once the action started.
It took less than four minutes for the visitor to get ahead, with Cory Kane grabbing his first KHL goal, and the Chinese team did a fine job of frustrating the home offense. Even after Ak Bars tied the scores – Andrei Markov got his first point for his new club when his weighted pass sent Vladimir Tkachyov beyond the last man – Mike Keenan’s team produced brave, well-drilled defense to thwart Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s offense.
A Kazan power play late in the first illustrated the point. Magnus Hellberg produced a fine save, putting his body on the line to deny Alexander Svitov. Then, in the subsequent scramble, Geoff Kinrade got a stick to the puck to deny Jiri Sekac a scoring opportunity.
The middle stanza saw Kunlun in front again, Alexei Ponikarovsky tipping home a Lukas Lockhart shot, but Fyodor Malykhin tied the game a couple of minutes later when he pounced on the rebound from Vasily Tokranov’s effort.
It wasn’t until the final stanza, with Kunlun tiring after its huge efforts early in the game, that Ak Bars managed to get in front. Justin Azevedo conjured the moment of magic, smashing home from a tight angle on a delayed penalty to make it 3-2. Then he popped up with a late interception, snaffling the puck from Marek Daloga and swooping in to seal the victory.
Robin Hanzl was Neftekhimik’s game-winner as Andrei Nazarov’s team made it two wins from two at the start of the season.
That was a little harsh on Admiral, which was competitive throughout the game. Inside two minutes the visitor took the lead when defenseman Shaone Morrisonn scored his second of the season. That was cancelled out by a power play marker from Chad Rau, his first since moving from Kunlun Red Star. Then the teams traded quickfire goals early in the middle stanza, with Damir Sharipzyanov putting the host in front only for Vladimir Butuzov to reply 14 seconds later.
Svyatoslav Grebenshchikov scored his first KHL career goal as HC Sochi won in a shoot-out at home to Amur.
Grebenshchikov, who joined Sochi from SKA, got his big moment on the power play in the 25th minute, collecting Ruslan Pedan’s pass, advancing along the goalline and squeezing a short-side shot past Juha Metsola.
That lead lasted until the 52nd minute, with Dmitry Shikin – given the start ahead of Konstantin Barulin – keeping Amur at bay until Oleg Gubin tied the scores and took us to overtime. There was still no winner, so it went to the shoot-out and Vadim Shchegolkov was the only player to find the net to give Sochi the win.