Evgeny Kuznetsov

Photo credit: KP.RU

The KHL officially began their new season Monday at 9am Washington time, after a five day moratorium to honor the 44 men and women who tragically died in the Lokomotiv plane accident. Atlant re-started their game against Salavat Yulaev, which was named the “Lokomotiv Cup,” and Evgeny Kuznetsov’s Traktor Chelyabinsk met their conference rivals from Metallurg Novokuznetsk in their home opener. All in all, there were 7 games on the KHL ledger.

A year after putting up one of the best years ever recorded by a 18-year-old in Russia, Capitals’ prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov hit the ice a bit out of game shape after being sidelined most of the offseason due to shoulder surgery, which he admitted after the game.

The winger was active throughout the match, despite starting on the third-line and having very limited ice time, certainly not something he’s used to. As the game wore on, Kuznetsov, was moved up in the depth chart. He had a few chances on goal but wasn’t able to score or net an assist, though he did provide some beautiful set-ups for his teammates. He also picked up two minutes for elbowing, which Metallurg capitalized on to tie the game at one early in the second.

Eventually, the game went to a shootout, and that’s where Kuz made his magic. Traktor was trailing, 1-0, in the gimmick with just one shooter left. Kuznetsov went out and, well, watch from 3:15 mark:

After the goal, the arena erupted in cheers of “Kuz-ya, Kuz-ya, Kuz-ya,” his nickname. Former Ducks and Bruins player Stanislav Chistov then put Traktor in front and Metallurg was unable to come back.

In their next game (Wednesday, 9am ET), Traktor will face Barys in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, before facing their number one rivals, Metallurg Magnitogorsk later in the week.

In other news, Kuznetsov spoke to Sport-Express last week, and the interview features an interesting tidbit on his views on playing in the NHL:

If you just think about money, you can stay in the KHL your whole life. If you are a good player, if you score a lot, without a question you will be offered a big contract. And there is no need to even think about the NHL. Although it is possible to make good money there as well, even if it is a bit less than in Russia. Those who play in the NHL say that they enjoy playing hockey there much more. Just like any other professional, I would like to try myself at the highest level.

Additional reporting by Chris Gordon.