OMSK, Russia, September 6 (R-Sport) - He may be the biggest signing in KHL history, but Ilya Kovalchuk was comprehensively outshone Friday in his first competitive game since walking out on the New Jersey Devils to return to Russia with SKA St. Petersburg.
Captain Kovalchuk failed to register a point as SKA pounded former Gagarin Cup finalist Avangard Omsk 5-1 on the road - former Phoenix Coyotes center Viktor Tikhonov was instead the hero, scoring two goals including the game-winner. Kovalchuk was keen to discuss the team's performance rather than his own.
"The win wasn't easy for us," he said. "We played like we can ... Today we played well, could have scored more, had a lot of chances."
Avangard had taken the lead when Kirill Lyamin scored on 06:04 but after that it was all about SKA. Tikhonov scored his first goal on a breakaway on 16:28 and struck again on 25:43 off a pass from Alexander Kucheryavenko.
Further goals followed from Kevin Dallman, Kucheryavenko and Roman Cervenka, who finished 1+1 in his first game since returning to Russia from the Calgary Flames.
"The first period woke us up, we let a goal in pretty quick" Tikhonov said. "We grasped that the season won't be easy, then we got it together. The main thing is that we were creating chances to score today."
As for the glamorous new arrival, Kovalchuk managed just one shot. He kicked the puck into net at the end of the game, seemingly out of frustration, and then chose to take the puck with him as a souvenir. Last year, he played for SKA during the NHL lockout and finished with 42 points from 36 games.
SKA outshot Avangard 32-28 as Alexander Salak was strong in goal for the St. Petersburg team, while Avangard's Teemu Lassila had a day to forget.
Earlier in the day, new team Admiral Vladivostok won its first KHL game 4-3 on a shootout against Amur Khabarovsk. Eight more games follow later.