CSKA leads the series 1-0
Mikhail Grigorenko grabbed a hat-trick to give CSKA a winning start in this year’s Gagarin Cup final. His treble also moves him to 11 goals and a share in the race for top post-season goalscorer alongside Sergei Shumakov of Avangard. Shumakov himself was among the goals today, but was outgunned by Grigorenko’s infectious form.
The home team could hardly have asked for a better start: with two minutes on the clock, Andrei Svetlakov opened the scoring. He took the puck from Petrov as Avangard looked to clear its zone and advanced to fire one to the top shelf from between the hash marks. Six minutes later, it was 2-0, with Grigorenko making his first contribution of the game to assist Alexei Marchenko. The forward fedthe puck back to the point, where Marchenko’s shot beat Igor Bobkov. Linden Vey putting up a big screen in front of the visiting goalie, the first telling contribution from him in what would prove to be productive evening in a supporting role.
The visitor, shellshocked, struggled to create anything of note in the first period and Bob Hartley was probably relieved to get to the intermission with no further damage sustained. However, relief quickly turned to anger – via brief detour to delight – when Avangard thought it had a goal back early in the second period. Cody Franson’s point shot was deflected past Ilya Sorokin by the leaping Andrei Stas. However, a video review concluded that the puck came off Stas’ leg and, however inadvertent the contact, the goal was whistled off in accordance with rule 94 (v), which states that a goal will not count if the puck ‘is directed off a helmet or any part of an attacking skater’s body’. The verdict brought much relief to the home crowd, but bemusement to the Avangard bench. Franson was left shaking his head, while Hartley called the referees over for a further explanation of the verdict.
Avangard’s sense of injustice was heightened when CSKA added a third shortly afterwards. There was no question about the goal – a good, fast breakaway sprung by Vey that ended with an emphatic Grigorenko shot over Bobkov’s shoulder – but there was, nonetheless, a growing feeling that today’s game was not destined to go in Omsk’s favor.
Hope for the visitor arrived in the 34th minute when Avangard converted its first power play chance of the game. It took just nine seconds from Artyom Blazhiyevsky sitting down in the box to Shalunov firing home from a tight angle off Taylor Beck’s feed. Shalunov against his former club promises to be one of the sub-plots of the series; tonight the leading playoff goalscorer moved on to 11 goals but ultimately found himself defeated for only the fourth time in this year’s playoff. Beck, meanwhile, got back on the scoring trail on his return following the injury he sustained in Ufa during the previous series.
However, the home team was in impressive form, with Grigorenko at his eye-catching best. The CSKA forward got his second of the night midway through the third period, exchanging passes with Vey before beating Bobkov at his near post. That was the end of Bobkov’s game and it felt like the end of Avangard’s chances as well.
The visitor refused to give up, though, and got a second power play goal with five minutes left. This time Denis Zernov fired the puck into the danger zone where Viktor Stalberg won the battle to steer it towards the net. A deflection off Nikita Nesterov’s skate completed the job and gave Avangard a glimmer of hope to take into the closing stages.
However, it was little more than a glimmer. A CSKA power play took the sting out of Avangard’s attempts at a fightback, even if it didn’t bring another home goal. An attempt to unleash a final storm on Sorokin’s net came adrift and Grigorenko fired into an empty net to complete his hat-trick.
CSKA, seeking its first ever Gagarin Cup win, began with an emphatic victory and one that justifies the Army Men’s status as favorite to lift the trophy. However, Avangard can draw some comfort from the 2016 Gagarin Cup final. On that occasion, CSKA began with a 5-1 victory over Metallurg and played the kind of hockey that had many pundits anticipating a comfortable triumph in the series. However, Magnitka rallied bravely and claimed the series in a game seven showdown in Moscow.
Bob Hartley, head coach, Avangard
The first period wasn’t east for us. Usually we have an aggressive start to the game but today we couldn’t keep the puck and made a load of mistakes. CSKA is a strong team and they made us pay for that. It was just a bad start to the game. We tried to get back into it but we couldn’t do that before the end.
Everyone knows that Beck had an injury. Our medics worked on him without pause and got him back into peak condition. Of course he’s an important player for us so we put him back in the team. As Petrov, we’ll try to give everyone a game, including Galimov and Koshelev.
I never talked about the officiating and I always count on honesty and fair play. All that stays on the ice, I’m not really competent to comment on the rules but every week I turn on KHL TV to watch Mr. Anisimov [the KHL’s chief official] and learn something new about his rules. It’s a really interesting show.
Maybe Igor Bobkov didn’t have his best game today. But where would we be without him this season? As soon as Ramo got hurt I had no doubts about who should be our number 1 goalie.
Igor Nikitin, head coach, CSKA
The game was patchy. At times we played well, at times we gave up the initiative too easily. We’re up against a good opponent, I’m happy to start the series with a win.
What’s the situation with Andronov’s injury?
And who said he had any injury? That’s a question for him. I think he should be available for the next game.
What did you think of your penalty kill today?
What do you want me to say? We allowed two goals, we need to work on that.