DENVER - The Boston Bruins made Patrice Bergeron's return memorable.
Not so for Tony Granato. Bergeron, out for nearly a year with a serious concussion, had two assists and David Krejci scored the game-winner with 2:36 remaining and added an assist, lifting the Bruins to a 5-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams. "I couldn't wait for this day," Bergeron said.
Bergeron missed all but 10 games last season after he was driven face-first into the end boards by Philadelphia defenceman Randy Jones. He had to watch the Bruins' march to the playoffs from the sideline, anxiously awaiting his chance to return.
"I looked forward to this like nothing else," he said.
Granato's debut in his second stint in charge of the Avalanche didn't go as he envisioned. The goalie he has backed, Peter Budaj, gave up five goals, and his promise of an uptempo brand of hockey was marred by passes that just missed their mark.
"We did skate well, we did create enough offensively, but there are areas we can improve," Granato said.
Blake Wheeler provided a spark for the Bruins in his first NHL game, scoring a goal in the first period.
"It was a dream come true and you couldn't write it any better," the rookie said.
Marc Savard finished with a goal and an assist while Michael Ryder also scored.
Milan Hejduk had a goal and an assist for Colorado, giving him 600 points for his career.
Wojtek Wolski, Jordan Leopold and Cody McLeod also scored for Colorado.
Boston goalie Tim Thomas stopped 35 shots, including a late flurry in the last 10 seconds. He even caught sight of Joe Sakic in the scrum, causing even more trepidation.
"I know from watching him over the years that he can go anywhere from five-hole to off the crossbar," Thomas said. "I was trying to be ready for anything."
That was Krejci's approach as well on his game-winning goal. He was simply standing to the left of Budaj when it bounced his way.
"I just put the puck on net and hoped it went in. It did," Krejci said. "It feels good."
After the game, the Avalanche were bemoaning their unfortunate breaks.
"Weird bounces tonight," said Hejduk. "Off the shin pads and every freaking rebound went to them. A little frustrating game."
Sakic had an assist on McLeod's goal in the second period, giving him 1,007 in his career. He's now 26 shy of tying Mario Lemieux for 10th place on the NHL's all-time assists list.
Still, he would've liked to have buried the puck late in the game.
"A lot of shots and no goal," said Sakic, who now has 60 points in 60 career games against Boston. "Thomas was pretty good for them."
So was Bergeron.
"When you step on the ice you want to contribute," he said. "I don't care if it's offensively or defensivley. I thought I did that the whole game."
Notes: Colorado D Adam Foote played in his 999th career game Thursday night. ... Before the opening faceoff, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter, Brett Hull and Cammi Granato were honored with a video tribute and an ovation from the capacity crowd. The group will be inducted into the 2008 class of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Friday night in Denver. ... A Bruins slapshot broke the glass behind the Avalanche's goal with 2:47 remaining in the second period, and the officials had the teams take an early intermission as a cleanup crew switched it out. The Bruins and Avalanche finished up the second period and then promptly started the final 20 minutes.