KAZAN, Russia -- Ilya Kovalchuk led SKA St. Petersburg to its first Kontinental Hockey League title Sunday as the team clinched a 4-1 series victory over Ak Bars Kazan.
Kovalchuk scored two goals as SKA beat Ak Bars 6-1 on the road in Game 5 to secure the Gagarin Cup.
Despite consistently having one of the highest-paid KHL rosters in recent years, SKA had never reached the finals before.
The season has been tough for the seven-country, 28-team KHL as Russia's economic crisis has strained team salaries and the low value of the ruble has depressed player salaries.
Several financially troubled teams are reportedly considering withdrawing from the league for next season.