Avalanche 5 Sharks 2
DENVER — Wojtek Wolski scored two goals and Craig Anderson stopped 38 shots, lifting Colorado to a season-opening 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night after the Avalanche retired Joe Sakic’s No. 19.
Darcy Tucker, Cody McLeod and John-Michael Liles also scored, making a winner out of new Avalanche coach Joe Sacco.
Patrick Marleau had two goals for San Jose, which dropped to 0-5-2 in season openers on the road.
Evgeni Nabokov allowed all five goals on 20 shots. He remains one victory shy of becoming the 38th goalie in NHL history to win 250 games.
The Avalanche are starting their 14th season in Denver, and first without their longtime captain Sakic. His sweater was raised to the Pepsi Center rafters in a ceremony before the game. Sakic’s number is the third retired since the Avalanche relocated from Quebec in 1995, joining Patrick Roy (33) and Ray Bourque (77).
While Sakic was the face of the franchise for nearly two decades, the team may be uncovering two more in 18-year-old rookies Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly.
They both made their debuts Thursday, each earning an assist. It is the first time a team has had two 18-year-old players in a season-opening lineup since the Winnipeg Jets played Shane Doan and Jason Doig in 1995-96.
Duchene, taken with the third overall pick in the June draft, and O’Reilly, a second-round pick, logged a lot of action. Duchene brought the crowd to its feet with several slick moves, but couldn’t score on Nabokov.
Duchene grew up a big Sakic fan, with posters adorning his walls. He said it was going to be a night to remember with his first NHL game falling on the night Sakic was honoured.
Sakic retired in July after a 20-year career. He leaves the game among the NHL’s career scoring leaders, winding up eighth in points (1,641), 11th in assists (1,016) and 14th in goals (625). He also guided the team to two Stanley Cup titles and won league MVP honours in 2001.
The Avalanche are coming off a season in which they finished last in the Western Conference for the first time since the team moved to Colorado. They made sweeping changes, brining in a new general manager in Greg Sherman and hiring Sacco, who had been with Lake Erie of the American Hockey League for the last two seasons.
Sacco pledged an uptempo style, and that is how the Avalanche played. Colorado had nine players record assists, including two by Paul Stastny.