No. 1 star - Anton Zlobin, Shawinigan Cataractes
At 7:00 a.m. Moscow time, Anton Zlobin scored a winner.
It was his second in a 2-1 game, the overtime winner that finally delivered a Memorial Cup to the long-waiting city of Shawinigan, Quebec. Zlobin had popped one in earlier in the game, but after the second, he was afforded the privilege of throwing off his gloves and helmet and draped himself in a Russian flag.
The Russian flag, bearing the numbers 77 and 79 representing Russian teammate Kirill Kabanov and Zlobin in masking tape, had been hanging all tournament in a suite held by Kabanov's parents. It made it down to ice-level somehow at the conclusion of the game.
Kabanov and Zlobin had been playing all tournament long with Pierre-Olivier Morin, but they were out with hometown hero Michael Bournival in this particular shift. Bournival centred it through traffic right onto the stick of Zlobin and he connected, leading to a sustained ovation at Centre Bionest.. Our first star had tipped in a hard shot from Kabanov earlier in the game to tie it up at 1s.
But the second one is the one that will be remembered. Zlobin, despite being a better regular season scorer, never got the same praise as Kabanov in Shawinigan. He won't have to buy a beer in this town for a very long time.
No. 2 star - Gabriel Girard, Shawinigan Cataractes
When London head coach Mark Hunter remarked at his team's Thursday practice that no team had won a game stolen by the goaltender, he probably didn't envision that his next opponent would have done just that. Anton Zlobin stole the spotlight from Girard, who made several acrobatic saves in the late second period and through the third period and overtimes as scoring chance after scoring chance was fired at the Cataractes net. The Cataractes held on for the 2-1 victory.
Max Domi set up Greg McKegg with a terrific feed early in the second, but Girard adjusted his position, stopping both the initial shot, after the rebound was blocked, was able to quickly recover and cover the puck. There was also a moment early in the third period when Girard made a save off of Andreas Athanasiou, waving his glove emphatically, but the save, probably his prettiest on the night, didn't count because the play had been officially blown dead. He officially made 34 stops as London fiercely out-chanced Shawinigan 29-20.
With one minute left in the 3rd period and the score still deadlocked 1-1 at that point, Girard made a fantastic save off of Jared Knight, who capitalized on a Shawinigan turnover. Knight took the puck right to the outside of the crease and Girard stayed right with him, giving Knight very little net to shoot at. It looked like he also got a pad on a clear chance from Vlad Namestnikov in the early seconds of OT, and robbed Andreas Athanasiou late in the first OT.
A great way to end a career for a fan-favourite in the Shawi.
No. 3 star - Kirill Kabanov, Shawinigan Cataractes
Kirill Kabanov was officially credited with two assists in this game, but it could have been far more. The slick-stickhandling Russian was a force all game, drawing a late hooking penalty on Tommy Hughes (Shawinigan failed to capitalize) and dazzled the crowd on multiple occasions on creativity with the puck.
His first assist was impressive as well. Controlling the puck in the offensive zone on the half boards, Kabanov ripped it on net. The puck looked like it took two deflections (one of which was off goal-scorer Anton Zlobin) and in a game when most of those would have been blocked, the puck ricocheted in, thanks to all the force from the initial shot. On the second, he moved the puck behind the net to Bournival, and we all know the rest.
Game Grade: A crowd that was over capacity and an OT winner in a championship game. Fast-paced, exciting hockey, despite the score line. What more could you want? A+.