Avalanche 5, Blackhawks 0

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DENVER (AP)—When they signed Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne last summer, the Colorado Avalanche became instant favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Once the duo hit the ice, they needed little time to make an impact.

Kariya and Selanne combined on a goal less than six minutes into their Colorado debuts, and goaltender David Aebischer and the Avalanche beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0 on Friday night.

Aebischer, replacing retired record-setting goalie Patrick Roy, made 31 saves in posting his seventh career shutout. Aebischer made a sprawling save in the second period and another in the third, and also had a glove save to rob Steve Sullivan in the closing minutes.

Kariya finished with a goal and two assists, and Selanne added an assist.

“It’s a dream come true to play with this team,” Selanne said. “We have so much depth and so many great players.”

Joe Sakic also had a goal and two assists, while Milan Hejduk scored two goals and Peter Forsberg had three assists.

All in all, it was too much firepower for the Blackhawks and backup goalie Michael Leighton, who had 24 saves.

“It felt fantastic. Two unbelievable players,” said Kariya, who played on the same line with Selanne and Sakic. “Obviously, I’ve played with Teemu a lot, but Joe and I have wanted to play together for a number of years and it’s nice to finally have it come true.”

Kariya and Selanne both played with Anaheim for five seasons.

Chicago coach Brian Sutter wasn’t surprised by Colorado’s scoring outburst.

“I don’t have to look at the score sheet,” he said. “I’ll lay money that on the first four goals, either Kariya, Selanne, Forsberg or Sakic assisted or scored every one. When they got the chances, they scored. And the right guys got it.”

Aebischer, meanwhile, said he had been “waiting for this game for a long time, and it couldn’t have turned out much better than this. We got the win, we scored a lot of goals and we didn’t give up any.”

Avalanche coach Tony Granato also called it an all-around win.

“We saw things that I hope we can see all year from our offense,” he said. “We saw some big saves from David. We saw some good things on specialty teams. It’s a good start.”

Kariya and Selanne, a pair of prized free-agent forwards who signed with the Avalanche in a package deal last July 3, paid dividends just 5:40 into the season. Sakic’s shot caromed out to Selanne, who passed to Kariya in the slot, and the former Anaheim left wing scored from just inside the left circle.

Less than two minutes later, Kariya passed to Sakic in front of the goal, and Sakic beat Leighton for a 2-0 lead.

At 7:04 of the second period, Rob Blake scored a power-play goal from the left circle on a pass from Kariya. At 10:07, Hejduk tucked the puck in the net from just left of the goal for a 4-0 lead.

Hejduk got his second goal on a power play in the third period. Hejduk scored from left of the goal after taking a pass across the slot from Sakic at 8:15.

Leighton started in place of Jocelyn Thibault, who had a shutout in the Blackhawks’ opener on Wednesday night. `Thibault cramped up in the last game,”Sutter said. “He needed a night off.”


In a pregame ceremony, the Avalanche hoisted a banner commemorating their ninth straight division title—an NHL record. … Colorado lost defenseman Martin Skoula, who bruised his foot in the first period. … With three assists, Forsberg raised his career total to 491 and moved into thirdplace in franchise history, ahead of Michel Goulet.

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Goalie Team Shot Save
Michael Leighton Chi 29 24
David Aebischer Wpg 31 31