Nikolai Kovalenko, son of the famous Andrei, got his first KHL goal to help Lokomotiv defeat Sibir 5-0. Avangard and Avtomobilist made it two wins out of two with victories over Dynamo and CSKA Moscow, while Dinamo Riga surprised Metallurg in Magnitogorsk. Salavat Yulaev struck late to force overtime once again before winning at Severstal.
This was a clash between an established powerhouse and a team bidding to elbow its way in among the big boys. CSKA’s pedigree needs no introduction: defeated Gagarin Cup finalist last season after topping the regular season tables for the three previous years. Avtomobilist, meanwhile, has a more modest record in the Eastern Conference but invested heavily over the summer in a statement of intent.
Photo: 04.09.18. KHL Championship 2018-2019. Avtomobilist (Yekaterinburg) - CSKA (Moscow)
The early exchanges favored a CSKA team full of confidence after a 3-0 victory in its opening game. Jakub Kovar was the busier goalie in the first period, and the Army Men enjoyed the bulk of the attacking play without carving out a goal. When Linden Vey opened the scoring early in the second period, thanks to a beautiful backhand feed from Kirill Kaprizov, it was no more than the visitor deserved.
It proved to be no more than the visitor would get as well. The lead lasted until the start of the third period, but Francis Pare tied it up on the power play as Vey sat out a holding penalty. Into the closing minutes, and Alexander Kucheryavenko put Avto in front. The forward flashed home a backhand shot as the puck rolled along the ice; Ilya Sorokin was unable to react as Vyacheslav Litovchenko put up the screens in front of the goalie. Ilya Krikunov, whose assist created Kucheryavenko’s goal, fired a third into the empty net to seal a win that suggests Avto could well be a force this season.
There are early signs that the 2018-19 campaign might be a more encouraging one for Dinamo Riga. For several years, the Latvians have been some distance from the playoff race, but the first games of the season point to a more competitive team under Girts Ankipans.
Dinamo put up a decent fight before losing to Avtomobilist on Sunday and followed that up with a win at Metallurg. Goalie Kristers Gudlevskis kept his colleagues alive amid some intense pressure – Magnitka spent almost 20 minutes of the game playing in Dinamo’s zone – and Riga took its chances when they came.
The opener came in the eighth minute, with Brandon McMillan stealing the puck off Alexei Bereglazov’s stick and nipping in to score. Metallurg redoubled its offensive effort, but Dinamo’s defense did a fine job of keeping the likes of Mozyakin on the outside: it’s not coincidence that Bereglazov and fellow D-man Yakov Rylov were among the most frequent shooters in a game where space in front of Gudlevskis’ net was often at a premium.
Kristaps Sotnieks extended the visitor’s lead in the third period, but there was little time to relax. Barely a minute later, Ivan Vereshchagin ghosted in at the far post to tap home the rebound from Vladislav Kaletnik’s point shot and ensure a tense finale. But Gudlevskis and Dinamo held on, with 33 saves for the goalie and 17 blocked shots for the team.
Traktor, beaten 3-0 in its opening game, responded to win by the same scoreline in game two. For Slovan, though, this was a second successive loss with just one goal scored.
But the game was closer than the raw statistics suggested. Traktor’s power play made the difference, claiming all three of the home team’s goals. However, had Jeff Taffe’s effort on an early Slovan PP not rebounded to safety off Vasily Demchenko’s post, the outcome might have been very different.
So much for the might-have-beens. Traktor got a power play chance of its own late in the first frame and took advantage through Alexander Bergstrom. The Swede, so consistent for Sibir last season, opened his account for his new club with a powerful shot from the right channel.
The second period began with Slovan pushing forward once more, but a penalty on Nick Schaus proved costly. Igor Polygalov scored from close range to double Traktor’s lead. With Demchenko in inspired form – the goalie stopped 32 shots, including one with his head – Slovan’s frustrations grew. And, late in the game, Schaus and Polygalov repeated their earlier duet: penalty for the Slovan D-man, goal for the Traktor forward.
Nikolai Kovalenko grabbed his first KHL goal as Lokomotiv shook off its opening game blues with a comprehensive demolition of Sibir. The Novosibirsk team, meanwhile, slumped to a second defeat of the season.
Loko was already a goal to the good thanks to an early effort from Petri Kontiola when Kovalenko, 18, enjoyed his big moment. The teenager had plenty to do when he collected Artyom Kayumov’s pass. Under pressure from Konstantin Alexeyev, and with his back to the net, Kovalenko managed to squeeze in a shot as he fell to the ice and beat Alexei Krasikov.
The second period saw a further goal for Kontiola and another from Denis Alexeyev as Loko assumed complete control. Yegor Averin added a fifth midway through the final period before Sibir’s Oleg Piganovich was ejected from the game for tripping. Former Sibir goalie Alexander Salak got his first shut-out for Loko, making 17 saves.
After a convincing win at Lokomotiv to start the season, Avangard followed up by defeating Dynamo by a similar four-goal margin.
Dynamo, meanwhile, has gone from leading Salavat Yulaev 2-0 at the second intermission of its first game to a slump that saw seven unanswered goals plunge the team towards two defeats in its first two games. A late goal from Andrei Alexeyev offered little consolation on a night when it started going wrong early for the home team. Kirill Petrov put Avangard in front in the third minute before Ansel Galimov, a former Dynamo player, doubled the advantage in the first period as the visitor put up an impressive 21-3 shot count.
In the second period, Dynamo was more competitive but failed to get back into the game. Instead, Nikita Pivtsakin’s goal extended Avangard’s lead. The final frame saw 20-year-old forward Artyom Manukyan, one of the stars of the MHL in recent seasons, get his second KHL goal to make it 4-0. Then, after a fight between Galimov and Daniil Tarasov, Alexeyev got his second goal in two games to reduce the deficit. After 111 minutes, Igor Bobkov was beaten for the first time this season but it could not jeopardize Avangard’s win. Sergei Shirokov added a fifth to wrap it up in the 56th minute before Alexei Murygin came on for his first couple of minutes of action for Avangard since leaving Lokomotiv.
Salavat Yulaev is showing signs of being this season’s late-goal expert. On Sunday, it scored twice in the closing minutes before defeating Dynamo in overtime; here it forced a last-minute tie before claiming a second successive overtime win.
Anton Burdasov was the key man, grabbing that late leveller before firing the winner on the power play with 48 seconds left in the extras.
This game, however, threatened to see Salavat on the reverse of the kind of fightback it produced in Moscow. Leading 3-1 after 13 minutes, the Ufa team found itself down 3-4 early in the third only for Burdasov to tie it up with 27 seconds left to play.
The game got off to a fast start. Carter Ashton put the host ahead, but Salavat replied quickly through Alexander Kadeikin and Maxim Mayorov. 2-1, and the game wasn’t eight minutes old. Dmitry Kugryshev added a third and Severstal was on the ropes at the first intermission.
The middle frame reversed that pattern. Severstal had much the better of the play and got its reward with goals from Sergei Monakhov and Daniil Vovchenko to tie the game at the 40-minute mark. And things got even better for the host when Yury Trubachyov made it 4-3 in the 44th minute. However, Severstal could not see it through: that man Burdasov delivered the decisive blows.