DENVER - It was only a preseason game, but after 18 months without professional hockey, a Joe Sakic game-winner was treated to a postseason eruption by the Pepsi Center crowd Saturday night. The Colorado Avalanche opened its preseason with a 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars, taking the lead for good when Sakic, who scored 30 seconds into the game, found the net again with 4 minutes, 15 seconds to play. And for a moment, it didn’t seem to matter that the game was meaningless in the grand scheme of the 2005-06 season. “The fans were terrific — it felt like a playoff game,” firstyear Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. “The crowd was into it. . . . I thought right from the outset the building was electric.” While one preseason game reveals little about a team — especially one with as many new faces as the Avalanche has — it did seem to indicate that the NHL is serious about strictly enforcing its new guidelines designed to increase scoring. Colorado and Dallas combined for 16 penalties, nine of which were hooking or holding calls. And the NHL’s threat of more whistles might have stopped other violations before they happened. “I think both teams were really watching what was going on,” Avalanche forward Steve Konowalchuk said. “You could see sometimes both teams were thinking about doing some stuff and they caught themselves and they laid back.” Colorado’s special teams had the edge. The Avalanche power play accounted for two goals in nine opportunities, while its penalty-killing units snuffed out all seven of the Stars’ extra-man chances. The game’s key sequence was set up by penalties. Moments after the Avalanche survived 45 seconds with two players in the penalty box, it had a two-man advantage of its own. And 14 seconds into the advantage, Sakic scored the gamewinner off an assist from Alex Tanguay. Defenseman Patrice Brisebois, a free agent pickup, scored the Avalanche’s other power-play goal on a shot from just inside the blue line early in the second period. “We have so much talent here,” Brisebois said of his team’s power play unit. “It’s fun to watch when you have Joe (Sakic) in front, and Alex Tanguay and Andrew Brunette, and on my left I have (Rob) Blake or John (Michael Liles). We just try to put the puck on net.” Though Colorado won the game, Dallas took the postgame shootout, scoring on two of three attempts, while the Avalanche hit posts on its first two attempts and did not try a third. Throughout the preseason, even if it is not necessary to determine the outcome of the game, teams will stage shootouts to practice them and for the fans. NEXT Preseason: Colorado at Detroit, 5 p.m. Wednesday, 950 AM
Colorado Springs Gazette has disabled the comments for this article.