Ilya Kovalchuk made a surprise return to his KHL team on Monday.
SKA St. Petersburg recently stripped the former NHL star of his captaincy for performance reasons and had announced that he would sit out the remainder of the playoffs.
SKA went 4-0 without Kovalchuk in the lineup, but the 32-year-old made his return in Game 1 of SKA St. Petersburg's second-round matchup against Dynamo Moscow.
Who knew? Ilya Kovalchuk is back for SKA in West Semis Gm 1 vs Dynamo Moscow 9 am on @ONEWorldSports Club had said he was done for playoffs— @edcohensports
Kovalchuk registered one shot in 15:35 of ice time in his return and SKA St. Petersburg took the series lead winning 3-2.
Ilya Kovalchuk's playing tonight for the #SKA and is trying very hard— @IgorEronko
Kovalchuk! Ilya displays some silky skating skills, and blocker side he can't get a clean shot away! #hcSKA— @hcSKA_News
Last year, Kovalchuk helped SKA St. Petersburg to its first Garagan Cup and was named the playoff MVP. He registered 74 points in 76 games.
This season, the Russian sniper had 49 points in 50 regular-season games.
SKA has reportedly offered Kovalchuk $1 million US in compensation to terminate his contract after April 1. No deal has been reached.
Kovalchuk last played in the NHL in 2013 with the New Jersey Devils. The first overall pick in the 2001 draft scored 413 goals before abruptly retiring from the NHL with 12 years and $77 million US remaining on his contract.