Avs raise banner, beat Blackhawks 5-2 to start title defense

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Colorado Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram (4) is hit from behind by Chicago Blackhawks center Sam Lafferty (24), next to Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson (42) during the second period of an NHL hockey game on Wednesday, October 12, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

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Mikko Rantanen and his teammates logged a lot of extra ice time in Game 1.

It is of course worth taking part in the moving banner-raising ceremony before the game which lasted around 20 minutes.

Artturi Lehkonen and Valeri Nichushkin each scored two power-play goals, Rantanen had four assists and the fast-skating Colorado Avalanche began their Stanley Cup title defense with a 5-2 win over the Blackhawks from Chicago on Wednesday night.

Shortly after raising their new banner to the rafters, the Avalanche got to work. Andrew Cogliano scored Colorado’s first goal of the season, the only goal of the game that was not on the power play. Nathan MacKinnon, fresh off a lucrative new contract, provided two assists, while new goaltender Alexandar Georgiev stopped 15 shots.

“Our championship team is in the rafters forever,” said Rantanen, who played the 12th four-point night of his career. “You don’t think about it too much (now), but I think we’ll appreciate it later.”

Jonathan Toews and Max Domi scored as Luke Richardson made his Blackhawks coaching debut. Petr Mrazek finished with 30 saves against an Avalanche team that won the title last season by dethroning Tampa Bay in six games.

“Obviously it’s special to see that banner go up there, to make history,” Toews said. “But I think once the puck drops, the attitude is that it’s behind you and nobody really cares. You have to go out there and try to win. the game.”

Colorado moved the defending Stanley Cup champions to 60-26-16 in the opening games.

The crowd got carried away long before the puck even fell.

The Appetizer: A video of highlights from Colorado’s run to the franchise’s third Stanley Cup title. Next, some music as Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus led a band track “All The Small Things,” which became an anthem for the Avalanche.

There was also captain Gabriel Landeskog hoisting the Cup and skating with the trophy (he missed the match due to a lower body injury). Of course, there were plenty of photos on the ice, including a memorable team photo with Blackhawks defenseman Jack Johnson. Johnson was with Colorado last season.

Finally, the characteristic attraction — the banner raised to the rafters. As he climbed higher and higher, the cheers grew louder and louder.

“I got pretty emotional actually when they did the pre-video,” said Johnson, who wore his championship ring during his postgame interview. “One day I can bring my grandkids or my kids, if they don’t believe dad played, and show them.”

With the pre-game celebration over, Colorado’s title defense began.

The Avalanche took a little while to find their groove, but once they did, they were flying around the ice. They scored four power-play goals, including two by Lehkonen in the second period, for a 4-1 lead.

“Pretty emotional, but I think we got through it really well,” Lehkonen said.

After a summer filled with parades, parties and celebrations with the Cup, the Avalanche embark on the difficult task of becoming a back-to-back champion. In the NHL’s salary cap era that began in 2005, only Tampa Bay (’20, ’21) and Pittsburgh (’16, ’17) have accomplished the feat.

“By raising this banner, I just think it’s going to give us more motivation to do it again,” said defender Cale Makar, who had two assists. “Knowing that we all accomplished this together and being together on the ice again, that will only keep us going.”

LITTLE THINGS

It must be the melody. Or at least that is the opinion of Hoppus, whose song of the group was sung at Ball Arena until the title.

“Because they played our song, they won the Stanley Cup,” Hoppus said before the game. “All the other teams didn’t play our song. No Stanley Cup.

RING CEREMONY

The Avalanche hosted a private dinner and ringing ceremony Monday night for its players, coaches and team members. Among those in attendance was Johnson, who played in 13 playoff games for Colorado last season.

“Ideally, you would like to have all your guys here. Obviously that’s not possible,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “To be able to have Jack here and have dinner with us the other night…and then of course the banner, that’s pretty special.”

NEXT

Blackhawks: In Vegas on Thursday night.

Avalanche: In Calgary Thursday night to face former teammate Nazem Kadri, who signed a seven-year, $49 million contract with the Flames in August. “There are no friends on the ice for me,” Makar said. “I like guys off the ice and I liked Naz when he was here. But he’s with Calgary now.

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This story was originally published October 13, 2022 12:43 a.m.

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