SKA St. Petersburg has made no small deal of landing Pavel Datsyuk this off-season, immediately vaulting the 38-year-old from free-agent signee to the team’s captain before he had even played a game. And in his second game with the club, he gave home fans a reason to cheer just 33 seconds into the game.
In SKA’s home-opener against Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Datsyuk broke away out of the SKA zone with linemate Ilya Kovalchuk. As the pair crossed the blueline, Kovalchuk flipped a short backhand pass in Datsyuk’s direction, the former Red Wing skated into the past, loaded up a backhand and watched as Ufa goaltender Niklas Svedberg fell over himself trying to keep pace with the SKA attack.
With Svedberg stumbling, Datsyuk saw his opening and absolutely wired a backhand shot that hit the back of the net almost as soon as he had released it. Even if Svedberg hadn’t stumbled, it’s hard to like his odds of stopping the shot:
Datsyuk’s night didn’t end with one goal, though, as St. Petersberg put the boots to Ufa with a 7-1 victory. Datsyuk’s line, which is star-studded with Kovalchuk on one wing and Sergei Plotnikov on the other, contributed 11 total points. Kovalchuk led the way with a remarkable six-point effort, which saw him net a hat trick before the midway mark of the third period.
Datsyuk’s performance could be the start of a spectacular KHL campaign, even though he’s one of the oldest players in the league. But Datsyuk having a standout season in the KHL shouldn’t come as much of a surprise after he posted 49 points in 66 games despite battling an ankle injury. He’s only one season removed from a 26-goal, 65-point campaign in Detroit, too.
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