Ak Bars Kazan captain ALEXEI MOROZOV (95), the former Pittsburgh Penquins player, and 31-year-old veteran forward ALEXANDER STEPANOV (30) raise the Gargarin Cup signifying the Kontinental Hockey League championship at the Balashikha Arena. (khl.ru photo)
The fabulous goaltending of Finnish international goaltender PETRI VEHANEN proved to be the difference as AK BARS KAZAN shutout HC MVD BALASHIKHA 2-0 in the seventh and deciding game of the KHL finals from the suburbs of Moscow to capture the GARGARIN CUP.
NIKITA ALEXEYEV, a former # 1 pick (2000, # 8 overall) of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Finnish Olympic forward NIKO KAPANEN scored the second period goals for Ak Bars that Vehanen made stand up for Kazan head coach ZINETULA BILYALETDINOV, the long-time international defenseman for the old Soviet Union.
Alexeyev, the 6’5″ 227 lb forward who skated 156 NHL games (20 go 17 as, 37 pts, 28 pim) for Tampa Bay and the Chicago Black Hawks over parts of three seasons before signing for Ak Bars in the summer of 2007, scored his second goal in as many games for Kazan with 1:18 of the second period of Game Seven played in Balashikha.
Alexeyev, 28, totaled four in 22 playoff contests for Kazan this spring after scoring just one goal in 33 games during the regular season.
Ak Bars forward DMITRI OBUKHOV (34) rejoices for Kazan at the Balashikha Arena in Russia. Obukhov led Ak Bars with four goals during the dramatic seven-game final of the Gargarin Cup. (khl.ru photo)
Kapanen, a six-year National Hockey League veteran, added a second for Ak Bars with his third goal of the Gargarin Cup finals less than five minutes from the end of the middle frame.
Kapanen, who has now collected both a silver and bronze medal at the Winter Games with Finland, finished sixth on Ak Bars with 27 points (12 goals) during the regular season but led Kazan in playoff scoring with both eight goals and 17 points in 22 Gargarin Cup games.
Vehanen, the 32-year-old mid-season acquisition from Finnish club Lukko Rauma, proved to be a decisive factor with 30 saves in goal for Ak Bars; Kazan were nearly doubled up in the shots-on-goal department by HC MVD Balashikha in Game Seven at 30-17.
Ak Bars Kazan PETRI VEHANEN (35) stops another puck in the Gargarin Cup finals against HC MVD Balashikha. Vehanen halted 134 of 146 (91.78 %) of his opponents’ shots for Kazan in the seven-game final and proved himself a most-prized pickup for Ak Bars. (khl.ru photo)
A second consecutive Kontinental Hockey League championship then for Ak Bars Kazan, still the only team to lift the two-year old Gargarin Cup.
Ak Bars Kazan also won the old Russian Super League twice, in 1998 and 2007.
In the days of the old Soviet Union, the Ak Bars club, then known as SC Uritskogo Kazan, competed strictly in the USSR second division and never earned promotion to the elite league.
AK BARS KAZAN — 2010 Gargarin Cup champions
head coach – Zinetula BILYALETDINOV
- goal : VEHANEN, GALIMOV
- defense : NIKULIN, PERVYSHIN, MEDVEDEV, PANIN, YEMELIN, BURAVCHIKOV, ZAKHARCHUK, MUKHACHEV
- attack : MOROZOV, ZARIPOV, IMMONEN, KAZYONOV, KAPANEN, PESONEN, TERESCHENKO, OBUKHOV, BADYUKOV, BODROV, STEPANOV, YUNKOV, ALEXEYEV, PETROV, HYVONEN, KUKUMBERG