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Game 1: Avalanche 4, Stars 3

photo by David Zalubowski/AP
Despite their best efforts to squander a three goal lead in the third period, the Avalanche hung on to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 at the Pepsi Center last night.

Three of the goals were scored by Paul Stastny, who accomplished his first career hat trick.  His linemates Jaroslav Hlinka and Andrew Brunette had two and three assists, respectively.  Together, playing as the Avs' second scoring line, they absolutely dominated the Stars' defense and their goalie Marty Turco, who started the game strong but had a terrible second period.  Son of Stastny's first goal was a Sakic-esque wrist shot from the left face-off circle in the Stars' zone.  His second and third goals were scored in traffic around the net in the second period.  Wojtek Wolski scored the eventual game-winner with a pretty wrist shot in the last five minutes of the second period.

The Avs' first line, anchored by Joe Sakic with Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth on the wings, managed a couple of good scoring opportunities but generally looked a little lost.  Sakic seemed to get tied up on the boards too often and Smyth looked like he was trying to do too much by himself at times.

The blueliners started the game superbly, shutting down the Stars' attacks and clearing the zone easily.  Jordan Leopold played very well, with some good blocks and takeaways and generally consistent play.  Scott Hannan's physical presence was evident and he also had a great game.

Peter Budaj played a solid-as-usual game in net, and despite allowing two untimely goals in the third period, looked extremely comfortable.  Some big saves in the last minute of the game saved the victory for the Avalanche.

The penalty kill---again---was weak for the Avalanche, allowing both third period goals during Stars' power plays.  Also weak was the Avs' faceoff percentage: 39%.  Both of these factors must improve.

Overall, the game was a good one for the Avalanche and an excellent way to start the season.  Son Of Stastny looks even better than he did last season and it's clear that his line with Hlinka and Bruno is firing on all cylinders.  Expect even greater things from them as the season continues.

The Avalanche play the Predators tonight in Nashville at 7:00 PM Central Time.  I will be there (in section 305, upper level) so I won't be online during the game.  There will be a thread for it, though, so I expect to see lots of comments when I get back late tonight.  Don't let me down!

Stars Of The Game:

  1.  Paul Stastny
  1.  Andrew Brunette
  1.  Jaroslav Hlinka