Defending champs drop opener in OT
Paul Stastny scored two goals, including the game-winner 3:40 into overtime, to lift the Colorado Avalanche to a 4-3 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
Chris Stewart and Matt Duchene also scored after the Avalanche honored their 1996 Cup-winning team in a pregame ceremony.
Stastny’s winning goal from in front was set up by a pass out of the corner by Duchene. Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco got a piece of the puck, but it trickled into the net.
Patrick Sharp tied the game midway through the third period for Chicago. Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa also scored for the Blackhawks, who have dropped five of their last six season openers.
Duchene deflected a pass from Adam Foote into the net in the second period while his boyhood heroes watched from the stands.
The young scorer grew up in Canada an ardent Colorado fan, posters of Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg adorning his bedroom walls.
The Blackhawks have a decidedly different look this season after severing ties with playoff standout Dustin Byfuglien and Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi as part of moves to get under the salary cap.
Still, their youthful and skillful core remains in tact, making the team strong title contenders again. Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, three of those tenacious 20-somethings, each had an assist.
To replace Niemi, Chicago brought in veteran goalie Turco. He was shaky in the second period, giving up two goals, including a power-play tally by Stastny that trickled through his pads.
But he came up big in the third, especially in the closing seconds. Turco landed on a loose puck as Colorado players collapsed, smothering it with his back while his legs were in the net. Turco stopped 37 shots.
Craig Anderson was solid for the Avalanche, stopping a flurry of shots late in regulation and finishing with 35 saves. The team relied heavily on him last season as he set franchise marks in games played, minutes, shots faced and saves.
Bickell scored the first goal of Chicago’s season early in the opening period on a wrist shot over the glove the shoulder of Anderson. Hossa set up the power-play goal with a pass across the ice.
Later in the period, the Avalanche took advantage of a turnover to tie the game. Nick Leddy let the puck bounce away from him in the Colorado end, leading to a goal by Stewart.
Stewart led Colorado with 28 goals last season.
While the Blackhawks launched their title defense Thursday, the Avalanche looked back. There were 24 players and coaches in attendance for the reunion, including Sakic, Roy and Forsberg.
The Avalanche swept the Florida Panthers in the finals that year, giving the state of Colorado its first major pro sports title in the team’s first season in the Mile High City after relocating from Quebec.
The ’96 squad gathered on the ice, shaking hands as they made their way along the red carpet.
Foote skated out to meet his former teammates and posed for a few photos. Then, he glided over to his current crew, donning that model of the Avalanche sweater on top of his ’96 uniform.
Entering his 19th season, Foote is the lone player from that squad still playing for Colorado.
"It goes so fast," Foote said.
The Avalanche crew had a chance to mingle and reflect at a celebratory dinner on Wednesday. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who was an Avalanche assistant coach back then, was in attendance.
"It’s fun to get a chance to see everyone again and kind of reminisce about the old times, especially us old, retired guys," Sakic said.