Washington Capitals top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov returned to action following KHL Olympic break on Wednesday as Traktor Chelyabinsk faced reigning champions Dynamo Moscow in a Gagarin Cup re-match. Traktor, still battling for a postseason spot, gave the champions a battle but fell 5-3 in a high scoring affair.

Despite being one of the best players on the ice, Kuznetsov was unable to snap his goalless streak, now at 12 games (his last goal came on November 28th). But at least he keeps racking up the assists.

Today’s game was one of Kuznetsov’s best of the season. For his first apple, he bumped Ian White’s pass to feed Andrei Kostitsyn for a one-timer from the slot with Traktor’s goalie pulled on a delayed penalty.

For his second apple, Kuznetsov tried to dangle in front of the net on the powerplay. After being initially denied, Kuznetsov dropped the puck back to the point. Defenseman Alexey Bondarev fed the puck back down low for Stanislav Chistov, who went hard to the net and tucked the puck between Alexander Yeremenko’s pads.

Kuznetsov drew two penalties in the game. Both times he was denied good scoring opportunities. On the first penalty, he fished the puck out from a board battle and tried to start a rush for his team, attempting to dangle around defenseman Filip Novak at his team’s blue line. If successful, it’s likely that this play would’ve ended up as a two-on-one rush for Traktor. Novak put a hand in his face to not let Kuznetsov finish his move and got two minutes for roughing.

To draw his second penalty, Kuznetsov beat veteran Yuri Babenko with speed going to the net to turn a two-on-two rush into a potential breakaway, but Babenko obstructed him to prevent that. The call was interference, though it could’ve been holding, hooking or slashing as well. The Dynamo captain and Traktor’s leader then exchanged words as Babenko was escorted to the penalty box.

With the loss, Traktor is back on the Eastern conference hot seat. They’re still eighth in the conference, just two points ahead of ninth place Admiral Vladivostok, who will play against the second-worst team in the league, Metallurg Novokuznetsk, tomorrow. With a regulation win (worth three points), they could leap over Traktor.

So, we can only take positives from this one.

  • Kuznetsov didn’t get injured.
  • He played very well.
  • He was rewarded with points for all the hard work.
  • Traktor is step closer to getting eliminated.

Way to go, Kuzya.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Fedor what about the Nadezhda Cup. Igor tweeted about it being back for this year. Could we potentially want Traktor to make the playoffs and be quickly eliminated rather than play in the Loser’s Cup?

  • Кулёк Кулёкович

    Wait him