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Brunnstrom's memorable debut sparks Stars

by Brian Compton
As far as debuts go, it doesn't get much better than the night Fabian Brunnstrom enjoyed in his first National Hockey League game. 

The Dallas Stars' forward, who signed to a two-year contract with the Stars in May after being courted by several NHL teams — notched a hat trick on Wednesday night, leading his new team to a 6-4 victory against the Edmonton Oilers at the American Airlines Center.

His third goal broke a 4-4 tie with just 3:25 remaining in regulation. He took a pass from Brad Richards and beat Dan Ellis from point-blank range. Mike Modano sealed with the deal with an empty-net tally, the 530th of his Hall-of-Fame career.

But not even Modano had the NHL debut that Brunnstrom enjoyed on Wednesday.


"WOW…He was worth the wait and worth the hype..."


"The young Swede proved he has what it takes..."

"I scored three goals and that was fun, but more important was that we won the game and now we have our first win," Brunnstrom said. "It was a lot of fun tonight."

After coming up with only one point in their first two games, the Stars earned their first victory of the new season, mainly due to Brunnstrom's efforts. The Swedish forward became the first NHL player to get a hat trick in his debut since 1979, when Real Cloutier accomplished the feat with the Quebec Nordiques.

Brunnstrom made quite a statement on Wednesday, considering he was a healthy scratch for Dallas' first two games this season. But after his phenomenal performance, he did not display any bitterness towards the decision to have him sit.

''I wanted to play and be part of the team, but this team has really good players so you have to earn your spot,'' Brunnstrom said. ''I felt comfortable out there from the start."

Skating on a line with Richards and Sean Avery, Brunnstrom scored his first NHL goal 11:45 into the second period. The tally gave the Stars a 3-2 lead. Richards said he noticed his new teammate was suffering from the jitters before the game.

''He was nervous when he got here," Richards said. ''There's a lot of expectations on him and it was unreasonable. We wish he could have a hat trick every night, but he was in the right place at the right time."

That was extremely pleasing for Dallas coach Dave Tippett, who ultimately decided to scratch Brunnstrom for the team's first two contests — both losses. Tippett was delighted not only with Brunnstrom's offense, but with his all-around game as well.

"I was really impressed with just how he played a pretty simple, error-free game," Tippett said of Brunnstrom. "He did what he was supposed to do, and he capitalized on some chances. That's a great start for him. It's not just the goals, it's the other things that he's doing out there. He's a good player. He's going to continue to improve."

It was a tough loss for Nashville (2-2-0), which was playing its fourth game in six nights. Jason Arnott missed the game due to a fractured finger on his right hand. Radek Bonk, Patric Hornqvist, Ryan Jones and Martin Erat scored for the pesky Predators, who erased 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 deficits.

''It's disappointing,'' Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. ''I didn't think we played a particularly great game, but we found a way to come back. When we get four goals, we've got to get a point in the hockey game. We were short in coverage on a number of their goals."

Dallas gets right back it on Thursday night with a trip to St. Louis. Modano hopes the Stars can carry some of the momentum gained from their first win into the Scottrade Center.   

"We're trying to do something to get our confidence going," Modano said. "St. Louis is going to be a tough game tomorrow, so it's a good boost for the confidence. Hopefully it flows into tomorrow night. When you don't get off to great starts like everybody's expecting, you start pushing things. But we found a way to win."

Canadiens 4, Bruins 3, SO | VIDEO

The Canadiens unveiled their "Ring of Honour" prior to the home opener of their centennial. Alex Tanguay and Carey Price made sure the visiting Boston Bruins didn't spoil the party.

The Canadiens wasted a 3-0 lead, but Tanguay scored the only goal of the shootout and Price stopped all three Boston shooters as Montreal beat Boston for the 12th consecutive time in the regular season.

It was a big goal for Tanguay, who's still feeling his way with the Canadiens after coming over from Calgary in June.

''It feels good,'' said Tanguay, acquired from Calgary in a draft day trade. ''You know, I'm nervous, I'm still nervous, still trying to find my way with the team, trying to get my momentum and trying to get in the groove.''

Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu and Maxim Lapierre gave Montreal a 3-0 lead, beating Tim Thomas in a 3:19 span late in the opening period. But David Krejci got one back for Boston in the second period and Marc Savard scored twice in the third — including a fluky game-tying goal with 47.6 seconds left after Michael Ryder's dump-in took an odd bounce off the boards.

''We were just fortunate that it didn't cost us two points tonight,'' Price said.

Boston coach Claude Julien, who once held the same job with Montreal, wasn't unhappy after leaving the Bell Centre with a point in a game his team once trailed 3-0.

“They get two points, but we still get one," Julien said. "Down three goals against a good team in their own building, we’ll take the point."

Blackhawks 4, Coyotes 1 | VIDEO

It took four tries, but Chicago finally came out on the winning end, thanks to 29 saves from Nikolai Khabibulin and four different goal scorers at the United Center.

Khabibulin made several key saves from close range early before his offense took over. Not only did the Blackhawks win their first game, but they also managed to score more than two goals for the first time this season.

''We got great goaltending in the first period,'' Chicago coach Denis Savard said. ''Then we got some breaks and the puck went in for us.''

Before the pucks started going in for the Blackhawks, Phoenix took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by sophomore sensation Peter Mueller at 4:30 of the second period. Just after a two-man advantage expired, Muller beat Khabibulin on a screened slap shot from the right circle.

"That was the play we were waiting for.  When he pulled that, we were laughing on the bench. I couldn't believe he pulled that off. We went to work and everything came together." -- Jonathan Toews on Martin Havlat's goal
But Chicago would grab a lead before the end of the second. Martin Havlat evened the score with his second goal of the season at 11:35 on a highlight-reel tally that culminated with a backhander past Ilya Bryzgalov.

''That was the play we were waiting for," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said of Havlat's goal. ''When he pulled that, we were laughing on the bench. I couldn't believe he pulled that off. We went to work and everything came together."

''It was one of the prettier ones, but it doesn't matter how you score," Havlat added. "The whole team was working hard and 'Habby' was unbelievable tonight."

Patrick Sharp put the Blackhawks in front at 19:02, when he poked Duncan Keith's rebound past Bryzgalov just moments after a power play expired.

Colin Fraser extended Chicago's lead just 65 seconds into the third period with his first NHL goal. With the teams at even strength, Fraser took a pass from Dave Bolland and ripped a shot from the slot past Bryzgalov to make it 3-1. Brian Campbell rounded out the scoring with his first goal as a Blackhawk about 11 minutes later.

It certainly was a bump in the road for the Coyotes, who came out of the gate with back-to-back wins. They went 1-for-7 on the power play.

"We played too easy of a game," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "After a period and a half, we started to cheat a little bit. If you cheat, you're going to get beat at this level."

Oilers 3, Ducks 2 | VIDEO

Considering the expectations Anaheim going into the 2008-09 season, its start to the new campaign can't be labeled anything short of a disaster.

Four games into the season, the Ducks are still winless after being edged by Edmonton (2-0) at the Honda Center. The teams traded goals in the first and second periods, but Lubomir Visnovsky broke a 2-2 tie with a power-play tally 2:41 into the third.

"We got better each period," Oilers forward Dustin Penner said. "We battled pretty hard tonight. It was a really good game. Right now, we're finding a way to win. It's good to get this confidence."

The teams scored less than three minutes apart in the opening period. Shawn Horcoff got his second goal of the season at 4:20, but Kent Huskins tied the score for Anaheim at 6:32 when he took a pass from Brad May and fired a rising shot past Mathieu Garon to make it 1-1.

The Ducks took a 2-1 lead at 4:10 of the second period on Rob Niedermayer's second goal of the season. With the teams at even strength, Niedermayer took a pass from older brother Scott and beat Garon with a backhander.

The Oilers came back to tie the game with 1:37 left in the second on Sheldon Souray's first goal of the season. He was able to redirect a shot from Robert Nilsson past Jonas Hiller to make it 2-2.

Anaheim peppered Garon with 15 shots on goal in the third period, but failed to beat the Oilers' No. 1 goaltender, thus falling for the fourth straight time to start the season.

"We stayed disciplined and didn't take penalties," said Garon, who finished with 33 saves. "They came hard to the net. We did a good job blocking shots and getting pucks out of the zone."

While their performance was better than in the first three losses, the Ducks still aren't getting the fortunate bounces. Ryan Getzlaf is hopeful that's about to change.

"Tonight was tremendously better than the other nights," Getzlaf said. "We were moving the puck well. We were getting chances. Right now, the puck is not bouncing in for us. We had many scrambles around the net, but we just couldn’t get in there. We had opportunities. We just couldn’t bury them."

Adjustments will need to be made quickly, as Anaheim faces another big test on Friday night against the undefeated San Jose Sharks (4-0-0) at the Honda Center.

"You never want to be 0-for-4, but we've got a big game on Friday with San Jose coming in," Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. "We've got to build on what we did tonight, keep doing the little things. I think everybody knows what they've got to do; it's just a matter of doing it on the ice."
Material from wire service and team Web sites and broadcast media was used in this report.   

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