MOSCOW, September 4 (RIA Novosti)
(UPDATES with quotes)
Gagarin Cup champion Dynamo Moscow beat runner-up Avangard Omsk to win the season-opening Lokomotiv Cup on Tuesday after a star-studded gala.
NHL legends Wayne Gretzky and Phil Esposito were joined on the ice by Russian and Soviet hockey greats to drop the ceremonial first puck.
"This season will be the greatest in the history of the Kontinental Hockey League. Let's go," league president Alexander Medvedev said.
The regular-season opener between KHL champion Dynamo and Avangard was a repeat of last season's championship final, as is tradition.
They faced off for the Lokomotiv Cup, named to honor the 37 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl players and staff killed in a plane crash at the start of last season.
The match largely failed to live up to the flashy buildup, with Dynamo winning 2-0 on penalty shots after the match finished 2-2 and overtime remained scoreless.
Dynamo coach Oleg Znarok said the result left no doubts as to the team's preparedness for the long season ahead.
"The team's ready. The second and third periods showed that it's in good form," he said.
Znarok admitted nerves had the better of his team early on.
"We didn't play well in the first period. the first match, the jitters, lots of fans."
Avangard's new forward Tomas Zaborsky, meanwhile, took some positives from the evening.
"They're a good team and we worked hard and created for us chances. We were on the road and we got out chances and we tied the game up," said the Slovakian.
"We really just go on, learn from the mistakes. Next game is in two days and we need to get back together and hopefully win," added Zaborsky.
Zaborsky was last season's Finnish league MVP, was brought in by Avangard over the summer to replace the KHL's top scorer Roman Cervenka, who went to the Calgary Flames.
The game boasted plenty of other talent, with Avangard fielding Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Martin Skoula and ex-New Jersey Devils player Anssi Salmela. Dynamo had last season's standout playoff star, Mikhail Anisin.
In an even first period that yielded few shots, it was Avangard who took the advantage, with defenseman Salmela finding Anton Kuryanov in plenty of space on the counterattack before Kuryanov lashed a shot past Dynamo goaltender Alexander Yeryomenko.
Dynamo turned up the heat in the second period in search of a goal to level the match and outshot Avangard 12-7.
Denis Kokarev equalized with a slap shot after the constant attacks seemed to deflate Avangard, and only capable goaltending from Karri Ramo stopped Dynamo scoring more.
With 30 seconds of the period remaining, Ramo saved a penalty shot from Yuri Babenko to keep the score at 1-1.
In the third, Anisin dispelled fears a lengthy contract row in the summer might have damaged his goalscoring ability when he restored Dynamo's lead on 49 minutes on the rebound, but Alexander Frolov leveled the score for Avangard four minutes later on a breakaway to level the score at 2-2 before the match went to overtime.
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