DENVER — The Colorado Avalanche scored four power-play goals in a 5-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks in the season opener for both teams at Ball Arena on Wednesday.
Artturi Lehkonen had two goals and an assist, Valeri Nichushkin scored twice, and Mikko Rantanen had four assists for the Avalanche, who raised their 2022 Stanley Cup championship banner to rafters in a ceremony before the game. Alexandar Georgiev made 15 saves.
“Real good commitment and determination tonight. It’s good to see,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “Checking game looked good. We were getting in and out of our zone, arriving in D-zone coverage really well, and getting clean breakouts. The offensive zone play helped, I think. When you’re hanging onto the puck and you’re able to get moving and shooting a little bit, you’re going to spend more time there.”
Jonathan Toews and Max Domi scored, and Petr Mrazek made 30 saves for the Blackhawks.
“I thought the first and the third were really good. I thought the second, I thought we felt the heat, and I thought our focus got lost a little bit,” Chicago coach Luke Richardson said. “Overall, I think the guys fought until the end, and that’s all we can ask for. But we definitely have to demand more of ourselves.”
Video: CHI@COL: Lehkonen redirects a shot in for a PPG
Andrew Cogliano gave Colorado a 1-0 lead at 13:44 of the first period when his deflection of a Nathan MacKinnon shot trickled under Mrazek.
“I think we had a good jump,” Rantanen said. “I think our first two periods, especially, were really good. We played really good hockey. We were fast. We were staying on the pucks, reloading, and defending really well.”
Toews tied it 1-1 at 15:52, one-timing a pass from Philipp Kurashev into an open net on the power play.
“It feels good to get on the board and get some confidence,” Toews said. “I think in a situation like this, in this game, you just want to go out there and make plays, and you can’t dwell on whether they go in or not. You just got to go out there and play your game.”
Video: CHI@COL: Toews ties the game with power-play goal
Nichushkin put the Avalanche back in front 2-1 at 17:07, redirecting a centering pass from Rantanen on the power play.
Lehkonen scored on the power play from between the circles to make it 3-1 at 3:49 of the second period. He then pushed the lead to 4-1 at 10:12 when he redirected in another centering pass from Rantanen on the power play.
“Some really nice passing plays. Guys [were] going to the net and hanging around the net,” Bednar said. “We score one off a point shot, we got two on the back door. Nice passes from Mikko. I thought the guys did a nice job taking care of the puck and still staying in attack mode.”
Domi cut it to 4-2 at 1:51 of the third period, redirecting a backdoor pass from Tyler Johnson on the power play, but Nichushkin scored his second on the power play at 17:03 for the 5-2 final.
“It’s the first game, right? I think there’s some stuff we can work on, for sure, but it’s a [heck] of a hockey team over there,” Domi said. “[They’re] Stanley Cup champions, right? So you got to expect to be able to defend.”
Video: CHI@COL: Nichushkin gets 2nd with a tip-in PPG
NOTE: Rantanen’s four power-play points are tied for the most in a season opener in NHL history. He joined Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96), Chris Chelios (Blackhawks in 1993-94), Al MacInnis (Calgary Flames in 1991-92), and Jean Beliveau (Montreal Canadiens in 1965-66).
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