DENVER – Taking inspiration from Colorado’s 1996 Stanley Cup team that was honored in a pregame ceremony Thursday night, the Avalanche knocked off the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks at the Pepsi Center in the season opener for both clubs.
Paul Stastny scored with 1:20 remaining in overtime, his second goal of the game, to give the Avalanche a 4-3 victory in a fast-paced contest in which the teams combined for 79 shots.
"It was one of those games where none of us sat back," said Stastny, whose shot from in close trickled by Hawks goalie Marty Turco after Matt Duchene drew two defenders to him and threw the puck in front. "I was going to the net, try to spread it around, spread the ice open. Duchy kind of faked and went to me and I just tried shooting it quick. If it goes in, it goes in. If not, Duchy is there."
Said Duchene, whose goal early in the second period gave the Avalanche a 2-1 lead: "(Stastny) made a great shot. It's a huge win for us. I think we played a great game."
Turco, in his Chicago debut, made 37 saves.
"We kind of battled it out," he said. "They're good, skilled guys that make plays in traffic. I saw the shot. The D-man made a good play sliding, so I kind of knew (Stastny) was shooting it. It hit me twice and went in the back of the net."
Stastny, whose father Peter starred for the Avalanche's predecessors, the Quebec Nordiques, said he drew inspiration from watching the pregame ceremony that featured coach and player introductions as well as highlights of the club's first season in Denver that were shown on the videoboards.
"When you saw those guys on the ice with a couple Hall of Famers, and a couple who are going to be Hall of Famers … those guys meant so much for hockey itself and kind of paved the way for this organization," Stastny said.
Duchene, the Avalanche’s first-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and a Calder Trophy finalist last season, grew up a Colorado fan and enjoyed the pregame ceremony as much as anyone.
"For me, some of those guys were like gods to me," he said.
The Avalanche's four goals were more than they produced in any of their seven preseason games, five of which resulted in defeats.
"We know we can score goals," coach Joe Sacco said. "I mean, I don't think that’s an issue. We didn't score as much in the preseason (11 goals total) as we thought we would, but we know we can score."
Avalanche goalie and Park Ridge, Ill., native Craig Anderson, who began his NHL career with the Hawks, enjoyed the offensive support.
"It was nice to see the guys put the puck in the net," he said. "Our big guns stepped up to the plate. There's no better way to start the season."
Anderson, who won a career-high 38 games a year ago in his first stint as a No. 1 goalie, finished with 35 saves against his hometown team.
"It's always a good thing to step up and beat a team that you played for before, a team that you grew up watching, the Cup champs," Anderson said. "To do all three, it's icing on the cake for us. It's good to get the two points, to start the season the right way."
The Hawks erased a 3-1 deficit on goals by Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. Sharp set up Hossa for a goal with 1:36 left in the second period and tied the game on a power play at 10:25 of the third.
The Avalanche took its two-goal advantage on second-period goals by Duchene at 6:13 during a delayed penalty and by Stastny at 13:51 on a power play.
Duchene put the Avalanche ahead for the first time with a nifty deflection of Adam Foote's wrist shot from just above the right faceoff circle.
It took the Avalanche six seconds to make the Hawks pay. Stastny won a draw in the left circle, John-Michael Liles kept the puck from exiting the zone and fired a shot that hit Chris Stewart. The puck came to Stastny at the inner edge of the left circle and he swept it inside the near post.
The Hawks opened the scoring on the first of their seven power plays in the game. With Avalanche rookie Mark Olver in the penalty box for tripping, Bryan Bickell accepted Hossa's cross-ice pass in the right circle and whipped the puck behind Anderson at 4:37.
The Avalanche tied the game at 16:30 on a goal by Stewart, who scooped up a loose puck that glanced off the skate of Hawks rookie Nick Leddy at the Colorado blue line. Stewart cruised into the Chicago end under a head of steam, moved in alone on Turco and chipped the puck by his right pad.
"It was a good night all around," Sacco said. "You had the '96 team here and it certainly was an exciting and entertaining game. Every time we seem to play these guys, it's a fast game out there. I'm on the bench and it's going by pretty quick. We're obviously real excited about the result."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, an assistant on the Avalanche's '96 team, took part in the pregame ceremony but came up short in his 1,000th career NHL game as a head coach.