The first full program of the season brought Nikolai Kulemin’s first goal since his return to Magnitka, two Dan Sexton strikes for Avtomobilist, and a comfortable win for CSKA at Traktor. There was a high-scoring victory for Spartak over Amur and Bob Hartley began his KHL career with a win at Loko thanks to a shut-out from new goalie Igor Bobkov.
Josef Jandac made a winning start as Magnitka’s head coach, and summer signing Nikolai Kulemin marked his third debut for the team with a goal and an assist.
The day started with Metallurg paying tribute to Chris Lee, adding his name to the Alley of Glory outside the arena. The double Gagarin Cup-winning D-man was the club’s most productive blue liner, but this season the focus is on Kulemin – a Metallurg graduate back on a permanent basis after previously returning during the NHL lock-out – to forge a scoring partnership with Sergei Mozyakin.
On today’s evidence, that partnership looks promising. After Yakov Rylov gave the host an early lead, Mozyakin fed Kulemin from behind the net to make it 2-0 in the 12th minute. Evgeny Biryukov added a third before the intermission, pushing the game out of Slovan’s reach.
The middle frame saw Kulemin get an assist on Mozyakin’s first of the season and early in the third, Roman Lyubimov claimed a debut goal after his move from CSKA. Slovan’s Patrik Virta pulled one back late on, but this was very much Metallurg’s day.
The summer talk was about whether Avtomobilist’s rebuilt roster could compete at the top of the Eastern Conference. The early evidence was mixed: two goals from newcomer Dan Sexton paced a victory over Dinamo Riga, but it wasn’t until late in the third period that Avto put away an opponent that struggled last season.
Sexton joined from Neftekhimik, but head coach Andrei Martemyanov chose not to team him up with the summer’s other high-profile arrivals, Nigel Dawes and Stephane Da Costa. Those two would combine for Anatoly Golyshev’s game-winner in the 52nd minute, but first fans would see Avtomobilist jump into a lead then allow Dinamo back into the game.
After a goalles first period, Alexander Kucheryavenko opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. Sexton got his first soon afterwards as Avtomobilist scored off its first power play chance of the season. Dinamo responded quickly. Goalie Vladimir Sokhatsky, surprisingly preferred to Jakub Kovar, was twice caught out on the rebound as Linus Videll halved the deficit and Matias Myttynen tied the scores in the 35th minute. Moments later, Sokhatsky calmed his nerves – and his team’s – with a big save to deny Andris Dzerins as Dinamo scented an upset.
That save was a big moment. Dinamo never again looked as dangerous, and when Golyshev’s stick-handling took him to the slot for a deft back-hand finish, Avtomobilist was back in front. A second power play goal for Sexton made the game safe. Avtomobilist’s new era got off to a successful start in the end.
Goalie Sorokin produced the first shut-out of the KHL season – beating Avangard’s Igor Bobkov by a matter of hours. He made 16 saves, including two from Vitaly Kravtsov, last season’s top rookie and now a marked man in the KHL.
That gave the Army Men the foundation for a solid win. Kaprizov opened the scoring on the wraparound midway through the first period after good work from Grigorenko. In the middle frame, Vey opened his account for his new club, with another Grigorenko assist. The third session brought a third goal, and this time Grigorenko was the scoring, firing home after Vey’s face-off win. Like SKA yesterday, CSKA’s start looks ominous for the competition in the West.
The first period of overtime this season saw Salavat Yulaev complete a recovery from 0-2 down to beat Dynamo. The Muscovites were denied a winning start despite some impressive work from debutants Dmitry Kagarlitsky and Vadim Shipachyov; Salavat turned the game around in the closing minutes.
On the face of it, Dynamo had taken control of the game in the second period. A neat interchange between Kagarlitsky and Shipachyov presented Andrei Alexeyev with the opener, then Shipachyov assisted as Kagarlitsky made it 2-0.
However, the stats told a slightly different story. Prior to the goals, Salavat Yulaev had outshot Dynamo 11-1, and ultimately that pressure would take its toll. As the home team tired, penalties crept in. Joonas Kemppainen converted one power play chance to revive the visitor’s hopes; Anton Burdasov added a second power play goal with two minutes left to play, forcing the game into overtime. There, Artyom Sergeyev grabbed the winner. Notably, under the new points system in the KHL this season, Salavat Yulaev’s overtime win is worth the same two points as a regulation victory. Dynamo picks up one point for the tie after 60 minutes.
While Dynamo was losing at its temporary new home, the Megasport Arena, Spartak enjoyed a boost from some former Blue-and-Whites at the club’s old venue, the VTB Arena. Kaspars Daugavins, Andrei Kuteikin and Martins Karsums, all ex-Dynamo, each found the net for Spartak in a lively game.
But Ben Maxwell also played a big role for the Red-and-Whites, scoring twice in a high-scoring victory. He opened the scoring early on, Daugavins made it 2-0 but Maxim Kondratyev got one back for Amur inside the first seven minutes. Into the middle frame, and Kuteikin extended Spartak’s lead before Maxwell claimed his second, only for Amur to respond with two goals to keep the game on a knife-edge going to the final stanza.
Severstal recovered from allowing a goal after 30 seconds to make a winning start to the season against Sibir.
The game started at a furious pace, with Jukka Peltola grabbing his first KHL goal in the first minute to put Sibir in front, only for Igor Geraskin to tie the scores for the host. It wasn’t long before Alexander Sharov had Sibir back in front, though, and the game was still shy of the 10-minute mark.
That frenzy gradually subsided and Severstal profited from the calmer pace of the later periods. A Carter Ashton power play goal tied it up in the second frame and Ivan Zakharchuk potted the winner midway through the third.
Avangard endured a turbulent summer off the ice – but made a flying start on it with a convincing 4-0 victory at Lokomotiv.
This game in isolation may not answer all the questions about the Omsk team’s prospects during a season in exile from its home arena, but it certainly added to the sense that Lokomotiv may struggle to match its usual high standards after the departure of several key players.
Three of them – Max Talbot, Alexei Murygin and summer signing David Desharnais – ended up at Avangard. Goalie Murygin did not play, with Igor Bobkov preferred, but the two Canadian forwards combined for the opening goal. Desharnais, who never played a competitive game for Loko after his arrival from New York, got the assist; Talbot opened the scoring against his former club after 26 minutes.
Another new signing, former SKA forward Sergei Shirokov, added a second and barely 90 seconds later Mikhail Fisenko made it 3-0. Avangard was in command, Lokomotiv reeling. Denis Zernov wrapped it up in the last minute, Bobkov celebrated 27 saves with a debut shut-out for his new club. Bob Hartley’s KHL career got off to a winning start at the first attempt.