Jaromir Jagr scored his second goal of the game 3:34 into overtime Sunday to lift Avangard Omsk to a 3-2 victory over fellow Siberians Novosibirsk Sibir. And after days of refusing to confirm North American reports that Canadian Wayne Fleming had been pegged to replace fired coach Sergei Gersonsky, Avangard general manager Anatoli Bardin finally came clean, though he refuted claims that Jagr had contacted the former Team Canada bench boss about the job.
First, the game. As the score suggests, it was battle of two well-matched teams. After playing an even first period, Omsk applied pressure in the final three minutes of the frame, pinning Novosibirsk in their own zone. That pressure paid off as the buzzer sounded to end the period, but the referee ruled that the puck crossed the goal line after time had expired, leaving the teams locked at a 0-0 tie as they went to the locker rooms for the first intermission.
Sibir took advantage of their good fortune in the second period, scoring 8:40 in. But Jagr got his first of the game to tie the score less than 8 minutes later, an even strength marker on an assist by defenseman Alexei Bondarev. Jagr’s goal was the first in a flurry of three quick goals in the final five minutes of the period. The second put Sibir back in the lead — a deflection of a point shot on the power play with only a minute and a half left to play. But Omsk once again applied late-period pressure, and this time their efforts were rewarded when Anton Kuryanov, in his first game back after missing three games with a hand injury, scored with only three seconds remaining, with assists going to Alexander Popov and Ranger prospect Alexei Cherepanov.
Omsk had the opportunity to take the lead in the middle of the final frame, when they were awarded and extended 5-on-3, but their efforts proved fruitless. Sibir then had back-to-back power play opportunities, but despite a flurry of chances, also were unable to break the deadlock. And so the game went to overtime, where Jagr scored at 3:34 to give Avangard and interim head coach Igor Nikitin their second win in a row, helping them climb from the bottom of the standings to the middle of the 24-team league table.
On the coaching front, after days of secrecy and vague hints, GM Bardin has finally confirmed that Fleming has been chosen to succeed Gersonsky, though the team has yet to formally announce the hiring. Bardin told Championat.ru “We consulted with many trainers and players of the NHL. All spoke very well of him. Not a bad word! But the most important — Fleming worked not only in the NHL, but for team Canada. In addition, he also successfully headed European clubs. And that means that European players and our case will not be a novelty to him.”
At the same time, Bardin denied reports that Jagr had called the prospective coach to offer him the job. “No, Jaromir did not call the coach. But he called a few of his friends in the NHL, and helped us make our inquiries. But I had already talked with Fleming. And we both remain satisfied with this conversation.”
Meanwhile in the Canadian press Fleming himself admitted being contacted by Jagr. â€œHe (Jagr) called to see if I had any interest,â€ Fleming told the Globe and Mail. â€œHe said, â€˜we have a list of candidates, but I’ve told them you’re No. 1, and I’m calling to see if you’d come.’ He said because the manager doesn’t speak English, they’d call and talk through an interpreter, but before that, they thought it would be best to see if you’re interested first.â€
In the Calgary Herald, Fleming suggested the future hall of famer had helped sway him in his decision to head to Siberia. “He was very positive,” shared Fleming. “Jaromir played there during the lockout year and for him to go back again, there had to be something that was acceptable. He was very positive about the community. It’s a franchise that’s over 50-some years old, and so has a big tradition in Russian, European and international hockey.”
Given Bardin’s track record and false promises that Cherepanov would be at Rangers training camp right now, Fleming’s version of events seem far more believable…
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