Alexander Ovechkin scored the game’s lone goal, while Alexander Yeryomenko pitched a 29-save shutout en route to a 1-0 victory.
For two periods, a rocking, record-setting, crowd of 16 317 – as well as countless others watching on ESPN – were witness to one of the most exciting hockey games of the year. The Lions were flying – using a strong cycle to generate scoring chances at will and knocking down anyone in their way. It seemed only a matter of time before they got a bounce. Then, a single miscue by their goaltender ended up on the stick of one of the best in the game. Alexander Ovechkin poked home a loose puck, his goaltender was perfect, and Dynamo Moscow picked up their 6th consecutive win.
Prague came out of the gate in this match determined to get off to a stronger start than they had on Saturday, and it nearly paid off. Captain Jiří Novotný led the first wave of chances for the Lions in the opening frame. While getting mauled by a Moscow defender, Novotný entered the offensive zone and got a pass off to Michal Řepík, who put his shot just wide to the glove side.
Soon after, a fresh legged Erik Christensen came flying off the bench, grabbed the puck and burst towards the Moscow net, firing a strong shot that hit goaltender Yeryomenko on the blocker and trickled just wide of the net.
Defencemen Zdeno Chara and Ondřej Němec pumped up the crowd by throwing their weight around a bit and goaltender Tomáš Pöpperle, who had a difficult first period on Saturday, looked confident in this one. He was attacking shooters on the white ice and playing his angles aggressively.
Better still, the crowd came alive after each an every opportunity – a stark contrast to the first match at O2, when the Lions never led and the arena was silent for most of the game.
After killing off two penalties to start the second, the Lions reclaimed their momentum. Prague defenceman Nathan Oystrick had a brilliant energy shift where he hit anything wearing a white sweater.
In spite of a wave of scoring opportunities, Prague still could not beat Yeryomenko and the game was scoreless after forty minutes of play.
Ovechkin had been rather quiet through the first two periods. His only great chance came after bouncing off a body check behind the net to feed teammate Mikhail Anisin, who was then promptly stopped by Pöpperle.
In fact, Pöpperle was perfect through two periods, stopping all 22 shots that he’d faced, including a sequence of shorthanded stops on Denis Mosalyov and a fantastic toe save to deny Marek Kvapil a goal. He was as solid as a goalkeeper could be, playing confidently and aggressively, sucking up pucks at will and acting as a calming presence for his teammates. He’d even stonewalled the best powerplay in the league on three separate occasions.
But hockey is a game of sixty minutes and the lone lapse in judgment that Pöpperle made on Tuesday night ended up in the net for the game-winning goal.
The Czech goaltender appeared as though he was going to freeze the puck, but at the last minute changed his mind. Instead of holding for a faceoff, he played the puck right to Ovechkin. A scramble ensued and before anyone could realize what had happened, the puck was in the net – poked in by the stick of a falling Ovechkin.
Ovi’s goal was more Phil Esposito than Mario, but I’m sure if you asked the former Art Ross winner, he’d tell you that it doesn’t matter how they go in, as long as they cross the line.
Number thirty-two in blue now leads his team with 9 points (4+5) in 8 games and, more impressively, Dynamo Moscow is 7-1 with Ovi in the lineup.
The goal was scored 33 seconds into the third, and forced Prague to play the rest of the game uphill. The Lions threw everything they had – and then the kitchen sink – at the Dynamo net, but Alexander Yeryomenko shone. The Russian keeper made 8 of his 29 saves in the final period to capture his second shutout of the season.
The KHL’s reigning “best goaltender” could be brewing up another strong season. In 12 appearances he’s lost only twice, the last defeat coming on September 16th, and maintains an impressive goals against average of 1.84.
It is the 6th consecutive win for Dynamo Moscow, who now have 29 points in 14 games. They sit atop not only the Bobrov division, but also the Western Conference and are tied with Sibir for the league lead.
On the other hand, Prague – to borrow a phrase from my late grandfather – are falling faster than a hooker’s pants on payday. After starting the month atop the Western Conference, the Lions are cooling down in a big way. The loss to Moscow is their fourth in five games.
Prague will have a few days off before embarking on a 4-game road trip. They play four games in seven nights, starting on Saturday against AK Bars Kazan.