DENVER (AP) – Bowen Byram scored his first NHL goal and added an assist to lead the shorthanded Colorado Avalanche to a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in the season opener for the two teams on Wednesday evening.
Nazem Kadri and Gabriel Landeskog each scored a goal and an assist for Colorado, who played without star center Nathan MacKinnon and head coach Jared Bednar. Both are in COVID-19 protocol and away from the team.
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Assistant coaches Ray Bennett and Nolan Pratt led the team against Chicago.
Darcy Kuemper stopped 32 shots on his Avalanche debut and Jack Johnson added a goal.
Kuemper, acquired from Arizona in the offseason, was not tested early but made two big saves on Kirby Dach in the second period. Dach made a breakaway at 12:02, but Kuemper closed the pads on his shot. A few minutes later he had another wide open left circle chance that Kuemper stopped.
Soon after, Byram fed Kadri to a goal and a 4-1 lead.
Colorado took some revenge on Chicago goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who helped Vegas beat the Avalanche in the second round of the 2020-21 playoffs. Fleury faced a barrage of shots early when Colorado had 17 of the first 19 shots on goal.
Johnson, who was with the team on a professional tryout contract, opened the scoring at 4:26 of the first period. Landeskog’s deviation at 1:22 later made it 2-0, and Byram scored at 9:34 to give the Avalanche a three-lead lead.
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The Blackhawks got on the board late in the first period when forward Dominik Kubalik scored on the power play at 4:47 pm, reducing Colorado’s lead to 3-1.
Connor Murphy scored an unassisted goal at 15:13 of the third period. Chicago played the power play at 4:26 PM and pulled Fleury for a 6-4 advantage, but couldn’t score.
QUICK RETURN ?
The Avalanche are hoping MacKinnon and Bednar can return for Saturday night’s game. Both are asymptomatic and could “be tested,” according to chief executive Joe Sakic.
REMARKS: Forward Jayson Megna has been recalled from the AHL to replace MacKinnon. He centered the fourth line. … Chicago C Jonathan Toews played his first game since before the pandemic. He chose not to participate last season after being diagnosed with chronic immune response syndrome. … Colorado is 17-6-3 in home opener games since moving to Denver in 1995.
Blackhawks: At the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
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Avalanche: Hosts the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.