CSKA Moscow 1 Avangard Omsk 3 (1-1, 0-1, 0-1)
Goals: 1-0 Shalunov (Okulov 11:21); 1-1 Franson (Beck, Andrighetto 19:22 PP); 1-2 Chudinov (25:49); 1-3 Franson (58:40 empty net)
Goalies: Johansson - Bobkov
As is often the way on these showcase occasions, the game took some time to warm up. Neither team was able to put together its best passing moves, and serious scoring chances were few and far between. The honor of opening scoring for the 12th KHL season fell to Maxim Shalunov midway through the opening stanza. CSKA broke out of defense quickly with Konstantin Okulov surging down the left-hand boards and darting behind the net. Okulov’s pace left Alexei Bondarev caught fatally in two minds; go to the player with the puck or look to close down Shalunov at the back post. The defenseman failed to do either and Shalunov’s shot from the bottom of the face-off circle flashed across the face of Igor Bobkov and went in at the far post.
Avangard, which had suffered six consecutive losses to CSKA last season, including all four games in the Gagarin Cup Final, got back on level terms late in the first period when it converted its first power play of the season. Defenseman Cody Franson made the breakthrough, smashing home a one-timer from the blue line as Maxim Mamin sat in the box. The new ‘smart puck’ technology, rolled out in every KHL game this season, clocked his shot at 146 km/h. Summer signing Sven Andrighetto collected an assist to record his first career KHL point.
The Hawks went ahead early in the second period thanks to Maxim Chudinov. During the run to last year’s final, the experienced defenseman hit the headlines with a mighty shot from his own blue line to help Avangard move 3-1 ahead in the series against Barys. Today he repeated the trick from slightly further back, firing in another shot from deep in his own zone and watching as the puck skidded off the ice and deceived Lars Johansson in the CSKA net. The rest of the middle frame saw Avangard on top: the characteristic Bob Hartley press was in evidence, the team worked hard to block CSKA’s shots and the visitor enjoyed a 10-4 advantage on the shot count.
Inevitably, CSKA looked to raise the tempo and there were times when Bobkov’s net led a charmed life in the third period. Early on many in the arena thought the scores were level: the net rippled, the spotlights flashed on but Okulov’s shot had clipped the outside of the post and caught the edge of the fabric on its way to the boards. More chances came, most notably when Linden Vey and Kirill Kaprizov combined only for the Canadian to see his shot tangled up in a crowd of Avangard players in front of the net. That was typical of the action, with nine CSKA shots blocked in the third period as the Army Men found no way through. Late in the play Franson fired his second of the night as CSKA’s last storm blew itself out when Jiri Sekac was caught in possession on his way into the offensive zone. Franson fired into the empty net to wrap up the verdict.