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Golden oldies the soundtrack to opening weekend

by Adam Kimelman

One look around the NHL and it seems like every team has a few 25-and-under star players, from Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay to Patrick Kane in Chicago, from Taylor Hall in Edmonton to John Tavares with the New York Islanders.

But on opening weekend of the 2012-13 season, many of those youngsters took a back seat to the 35-and-over crowd, who spent the first few games of the season showing how timeless the classics can be.

Anaheim's Teemu Selanne, the oldest player in the League at 42, had two goals and two assists as the Ducks opened the season with a 7-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks. At 42 years and 200 days, Selanne also became the oldest NHL player with four points in a game since Gordie Howe (42 years, 326 days) had four in 1971.

Teemu Selanne
Teemu Selanne
Right Wing - ANA
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 4
SOG: 5 | +/-: 1
"That's Teemu," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He defies age."

It also gave Selanne 1,410 points, moving him past Dale Hawerchuk for 18th in League history. Another four-point game would tie him for 17th with Doug Gilmour.

"That's a big honor," Selanne, who started his career in Winnipeg, said of passing Hawerchuk. "Obviously, Hawerchuk was one guy I was following very closely and he had a lot of roots in Winnipeg when I came, so that's a big, big honor."

Selanne wasn't the only older player to star for Anaheim. His "younger" teammate, 38-year-old Saku Koivu, had a pair of assists in the victory.

"Way to go old boys," Selanne said after the game. "Most of the nights it's a young guy's game."

It certainly wasn't on opening night, as a few thousand miles to the south Dallas' Jaromir Jagr made his Stars debut a memorable one. The 40-year-old forward had two goals and two assists -- including a set-up of the game-winning goal -- in the Stars' 4-3 victory at the Phoenix Coyotes.

"It was special," Jagr said of his Stars debut. "Always the first game is special. It was strange. We had only one week in training camp. Practice and games are kind of different. Hopefully it's going to get better and better."

It was Jagr's first four-point game since Dec. 29, 2007. And it was even better than the last time he opened a season in January -- opening night of the 1994-95 season, when he had just a goal and an assist against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 20, 1995.


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At the end of the first night of games, the NHL scoring leaderboard had a distinct 1995 look to it, as Jagr and Selanne sat at the top.

"So him and Jagr are leading the league in scoring?" Boudreau said. "What the (heck) is this world coming to?"

Jagr's Dallas teammate, fellow 40-year-old Ray Whitney, had a goal and an assist. He and Jagr each scored once on the power play, which is just what the Stars were hoping would happen when they signed the pair.

"They did a really good job there [on the power play]," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "They read off each other. You've got two brilliant minds there. They're chattering all the time, so there's some chemistry going on already with those two. When you've got players of that caliber with that chemistry who can read off each other, you're in good shape."

Alex Kovalev made his debut with the Florida Panthers a memorable one Saturday. The 39-year-old, who signed the day before the season started, had a goal and two assists -- including the secondary assist on the first NHL goal for 19-year-old linemate Jonathan Huberdeau -- as the Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1.

On the other side of Florida, 37-year-old Martin St. Louis started his season with a pair of goals -- including the game-winner 4:57 into the third period -- and an assist as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 6-3.

The outstanding play by the old guard continued Sunday, as 36-year-old San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win at Calgary, while 36-year-old Coyotes captain Shane Doan had a goal and an assist in his team's 6-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.


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