PRAGUE (AP) — Seconds into the third period, Alexander Ovechkin took control of a loose puck — one that had stopped in a pool of water.
With three defensemen closing in, the Washington Capitals star backhanded a shot into the net for the game-winning goal.
It's not the NHL, but as long as the lockout goes on, it's as close as there is.
Ovechkin is one of the most recognizable names forced to head overseas by the NHL lockout, and he didn't have to think twice about where to find an opportunity to play. The star simply returned to his former Russian team, Dynamo Moscow — the defending champion of the Kontinental Hockey League.
"Home is home," Ovechkin said during a road trip to Prague to face Lev Praha. "My family, friends, all people who wouldn't have a chance to see me can come to watch the games.
"Besides, I'm glad that I can repay my debt to Dynamo. It was the club that got me ready for the big hockey."
The NHL has already canceled the first two weeks of the regular season, wiping out 82 games from Thursday through Oct. 24.
In the meantime, the ambitious Russian-based KHL, which includes teams from other Eastern European countries, has clearly benefited from the availability of many top players.
"The NHL is not working right now," said Ovechkin, the 2008 and '09 NHL MVP. "So, the KHL is the best league.
"Well, of course you can see the difference. The first difference is the bigger ice and the game is not that fast than in the NHL , not that many hits in the game, but I can see the level of the game. I can see the guys — the skill of the players how they have great technique."
Evgeni Malkin, a center with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the NHL's reigning MVP, is committed to his hometown team in Magnitogorsk, while New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk has been signed by SKA St. Petersburg.
Zdeno Chara, a towering Boston Bruins defenseman, just joined Lev Praha, a new KHL franchise based in the Czech capital.
"As of right now, it is important for a lot of players, including myself, that we stay in shape and that we play and be in kind of organized hockey and keep up in good shape," Chara told The Associated Press.