The more things change...
For the first 35 minutes or so, this game was simply magical. Dallas seemed to be already in playoff form, taking the first hour of the game off. Meanwhile, Colorado was in all-out-attack mode. Colorado had two lines clicking - Sakic/Brunette/Hejduk and the kid line of Stastny/Wolski/Svatos. Almost all of the play was in Dallas' own end, and the Stars just couldn't keep up with Colorado's relentless attack and were essentially limited to taking bad penalties when they couldn't keep up (9 minore penalties). Marty Turco was peppered with shots (at one point, Colorado had a 26-9 shot advantage) and is the only reason Dallas was even still in the game.
But they were still in the game, and by the start of the third period, Colorado's tank was on E. Meanwhile, the Stars came out on all cylinders in the final frame, and took advantage of defensive breakdowns to score two quick goals to start things off. Game tied. From there, it was Jose Theodore's turn to take control. In the first two periods, Colorado could have had Jose Cuervo in net, and it wouldn't have had much impact. In the third, Theodore was magnificent, turning away 16 of the 18 shots, with several highlight-reel saves. The Avs managed just 3 shots, and at the end of regulation looked like a completely different team than had started the game. Both teams did, really. And then in OT, Marty Turco survived Colorado's two minute powerplay, then made a dazzling pass to break Daryl Sydor coming out of the box. Theodore really had no chance on the 1 on 0 break, and Dallas had a comeback opening-night win for the second straight season. I hope Marty Turco got a lot of love from his teammates after this one, because he is the only reason this wasn't a blowout in the other direction. Despite the loss, this game showed that the Avs have a lot more promise than many people expected.
It also showed that they still need to do something about their third defensive pairing: Patrice Brisebois and Ossi Vaananen. Now, these guys played together for much of last season until Ossi got hurt. Let's estimate that they've logged a good 750 shifts together, and that's just game situtations, not including all the practices and scrimmages. And yet they still seem utterly clueless as to where the other player is going to be at any given time. Twice in the first, they executed what has become their signature play - one player (in this case Brisebois) gets in trouble and fires off a quick pass behind the net to Vaananen...who is off in the stands buying popcorn or something. The pass is nowhere near him, and he lumbers after it, giving Dallas a chance to up the pressure. While the two Blindfold Passes in the first didn't hurt Colorado, the one they made in the third period did - it led to Eriksson's game tying goal.
- Mike Modano had his captaincy stripped from him this offseason, and, despite the goal, played with about as much spark as Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts had in I Love Trouble.Along with fellow pouter Eric Lindros, Dallas coach Dave Tippett might have his babysitting chores cut out for him this year.
- Marek Svatos was very sharp in the game. He had 4 shots and even led the team in hits on the stat sheet. But what will I remember about the game? That he took yet another boneheaded stick penalty in the offensive zone late in the game. Dallas didn't capitalize, but you simply cannot take lazy penalties like that - especially in the offensive zone and especially with just over four minutes left.
- Vs - the channel that used be called OLN - has radically improved their hockey telecasts. The graphics no longer look like they belong in 1980. The production still isn't on par with, say, Hockey Night in Canada...but what is?