In the end, we had to wait a bit. Metallurg Magnitogorsk’s Sergei Mozyakin scored goal number 427 of his illustrious career on August 27th, putting him just one behind Boris Mikhailov for the most all-time in Soviet or Russian top-level domestic hockey. That was Mozyakin’s third goal in three games to start the season, and so it seemed certain that the record-tying and -breaking tallies would arrive quite promptly. But perhaps the pressure took its toll; it would be four full games and most of a fifth before Mozyakin equaled Mikhailov with a beautiful shot off a clever assist against Jokerit Helsinki on September 10th. Three days later, at home against Dinamo Minsk, the record fell. Read on, as we take a look at the historic marker!
The setting: Metallurg entered the third period against Dinamo down 3-1, and badly in need of a spark. They got it early on, as Denis Kazionov pulled them within a goal just two minutes into the final frame. Thirty seconds later, Metallurg had possession again, in the offensive zone…
The play begins with some clever work near the boards by Metallurg’s attacking defenceman Chris Lee, as he keeps the puck despite the attentions of both Matt Ellison and Charles Linglet. Mozyakin, meanwhile, takes up station behind Dinamo goalie Ben Scrivens. Nobody is paying much attention to him, and this — as we have discussed before — is one of Mozyakin’s great gifts: he makes opposing players lose track of him for just long enough. Lee swings the puck up to forward Jan Kovář at the point…
Kovář has the puck, as Mozyakin sneaks out around the far post. Shinkevich, to his credit, takes a look back, sees Wolski coming hard to the goalmouth, and begins backing in that direction himself. The unimaginative play here would be for Kovář to get the puck to the net, and let Wolski and Mozyakin battle Shinkevich and Scrivens for it.
But Mozyakin, as we shall see, is not heading to the top of the crease to hunt for rebounds. Rather, he takes the long route, well outside of and above the spot to which Shinkevich is heading. And we should note here that it was Kovář whose splendid pass had been converted by Mozyakin for goal number 428 three days earlier.
The young Czech forward makes another beautiful pass, finding Mozyakin just as he emerges from behind the defence. Gragnani is caught flat-footed, while Ellison, Linglet, and Materukhin are too far away to help. Shinkevich realizes the danger, and looks to have good position, but by now his momentum is carrying him towards the faceoff circle. Mozyakin, meanwhile, is headed in the opposite direction, towards the slot. They pass, as ships in the night.
By the time Shinkevich gets his course reversed, Mozyakin is in a prime shooting position, and the two Dinamo defencemen can only flail helplessly at him with their sticks. And it must be said that Scrivens does not do well here. I have all kinds of time for Ben Scrivens; he’s intelligent and well-spoken (his nickname, “the Professor,” is not an ironic one), and a couple of seasons ago he broke an NHL record with 59 saves in a shutout victory for the Edmonton Oilers. But he also has a terrible and bizarre habit of lunging forward from his knees when the puck is well out of his reach, and he indulges that habit on this play. In doing so, he opens up quite a lot of the net for Mozyakin to target, and the little number 10 does not let the opportunity go begging.
Over Scrivens’ blocker goes the puck, and with that Sergei Mozyakin has scored more goals than any other player in the history of top-flight hockey in the Soviet Union and Russia (on a more mundane note, he has also tied the game; Metallurg would go on to win it 5-4 without any further contribution from the record-breaker). Here’s the complete clip of the goal:
The man whose record it was, Boris Mikhailov, handed over the laurels gracefully:
“I am glad that Mozyakin broke my record, more power to him — long live Mozyakin! Seriously, it does not upset me, and I never thought that my record would last forever. I have no prejudices about this; for thirty-five years I was the best scorer in the national championship, now for thirty-five years I will be in second place.”
“I would just like to wish Sergei Mozyakin one thing: to continue to do what he does best — scoring. Judging by the way he plays at 35 years old, and what form he is in now, he could well conquer the mark of 500 goals — really.”
Mikhailov, now 71 years old, was captain of both CSKA Moscow and the Soviet national team through the 1970s, and he scored many of his goals alongside Vladimir Petrov and Valery Kharlamov on one of the greatest lines the game of hockey has ever seen. Mikhailov hung up his skates in the spring of 1981 — appropriately enough, at about the same time that Sergei Mozyakin was being born in Yaroslavl (March 31st, 1981). There is a further pleasant historical coincidence the two men’s careers; Mikhailov’s last coach, Viktor Tikhonov, was Mozyakin’s first at the professional level, in the late 1990s with CSKA (said Mozyakin about the fearsome Tikhonov: “At first he swore at me a lot, but at a certain point he stopped, and no longer made any comments“). I think we can safely say that the new record-holder no longer has to worry too much about his coaches yelling at him.
We will wrap this one up here — congratulations to Sergei Valeryevich Mozyakin on the all-time goals record, and long may he continue to baffle defences across the KHL!