Denis Alexeev scored 55 seconds into overtime, giving Russia the first overtime victory in CIBC Canada Russia Series history by a score of 3-2 in Prince George, BC.
Alexeev crossed the Team WHL blue line off the rush before ripping a shot past a partially screened Connor Ingram (Kamloops Blazers) to give Russia an early 2-1 series lead in points.
Team WHL drops Game 1 despite outshooting Russia 34-21, but solid Russian penalty killing held the WHL power play to 1-for-7 on the night as netminder Anton Krasotkin turned aside 32 of the 34 shots he faced.
Russia got off to a quick start in the first period as Nikita Li threw a puck goalward just 1:13 into action, handcuffing Ingram to give the Russians an early 1-0 edge. Draft eligible Moose Jaw Warriors winger Nikita Popugaev gathered an assist on the play.
After failing to convert on consecutive power play opportunities, the WHL got on the board as Anaheim Ducks prospect Deven Sideroff made something happen off the rush. Sideroff slipped a backhand feed through the slot to an oncoming Jansen Harkins (Prince George Cougars) as the Winnipeg Jets draft pick brought the Prince George crowd to its feet at 9:48.
The two sides remained tied at one through 20 minutes as Team WHL outshot Russia 16-7, registering a number of quality chances on Krasotkin in the process.
The goaltenders went to work in a fast-paced second period as Ingram provided a big save off Alexander Volkov walking out of the corner seven minutes in before Russia’s Krasotkin denied the Regina Pats duo of Austin Wagner and Sam Steel shorthanded just a few shifts later.
The Russian penalty kill was the difference through 40 minutes, shutting down the WHL attack as they killed off another three disadvantages in the second frame.
Team WHL led the shot clock 24-17 after two periods as the game remained tied 1-1.
Russia climbed ahead 2-1 3:46 into the third as captain Danila Kvartalnov completed a three-way passing play off the rush. Alexander Volkov entered the WHL zone before dishing off to Kirill Urakov who quickly dropped for Kvartalnov who beat Ingram over the blocker with a quick release.
The WHL power play would come alive just shy of the midway point of the third period as Sam Steel (Regina Pats) knotted the score at two, tapping his own rebound past a sprawling Krasotkin at 9:34. Nick Merkley (Kelowna Rockets) and Kale Clague (Brandon Wheat Kings) drew assists on the goal as the 5,802 at the CN Centre were in for an exciting finish.
The WHL controlled much of the third period, outshooting Russia 10-3 for a regulation total of 34-20, but Russia held on late, forcing overtime thanks to some timely saves from Krasotkin to keep the game knotted at two.
The Russian victory came early into overtime as Alexeev collected the puck deep in his own defensive zone, gaining speed through the neutral zone before he crossed the blue line and released a shot that rose over the shoulder of Ingram to silence the CN Centre and give the Russians a 3-2 Game 1 victory.
Monday’s overtime hero Denis Alexeev earned Player of the Game honours for Russia while Prince George Cougars product Jansen Harkins, who scored his third goal in as many CIBC Canada Russia Series games, earned WHL Player of the Game recognition in front of the Prince George crowd.
Team WHL looks for redemption on Tuesday night at the brand new Rogers Place in Edmonton, AB as Game 2 of the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series is set for 8:00pm MT/10:00 ET, a game that can be seen live across the country on Sportsnet.