DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche started the night by handing out a letter of apology to their fans over the lockout-delayed season and trying to soothe any hard feelings through giveaways and promotions.
Then they really won them over with their play on the ice.
Gabriel Landeskog and David Jones scored 1:35 apart in the final period to help Colorado rally for a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night in the Avalanche’s home opener.
After the final horn, Colorado players skated around the rink and waved their sticks to salute the revved-up capacity crowd.
“It was unbelievable,” said Landeskog, the 20-year-old captain of Colorado. “I think this was the best crowd I’ve played in front of at the Pepsi Center. It just feels great. To be away for so long and to come back and to see so many fans here and how loud they were and how into it, I think it felt like they missed us just as much as we missed them.”
The fans certainly appreciated the offensive skills of P.A. Parenteau, the newest member of the Avalanche. Parenteau scored an insurance goal in the third period to help the team bounce back from a season opening loss in Minnesota.
Known for his passing, Parenteau showed he can find the net, too, especially when he’s left all alone.
“Anytime you can score your first goal in your first home game, that’s a good feeling,” said Parenteau, who had 18 goals and 49 assists with the New York Islanders last season. “As the game went on, we played a much better game.”
Kyle Clifford’s goal in the opening period gave the Kings their first lead of the season and, given the way Jonathan Quick was playing in net, looked like it just might hold up. Quick was turning back everything thrown at him.
That is, until Landeskog beat Quick with a shot off a rebound early in the third. That gave the Avalanche some much-needed momentum against one of the best goaltenders in the league.
Soon after, Jones followed by sending a wrist shot over Quick’s outstretched glove on a power play.
“We knew that if we kept pushing we were going to get one,” said Landeskog, who was presented the Calder Trophy at centre ice before the game after being named the league’s top rookie last season. “And if we got one, we knew we could get more on Quick. He’s a good goalie, but we were pushing him all night it felt like.”
Precisely what Quick expected out of the youthful Avalanche.
“They play with a lot of pace so you expect that every shift,” Quick said.
Staked to a lead, Semyon Varlamov made it hold up as he finished with 28 saves.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings are winless two games into the season. They lost 5-2 to Chicago last weekend, dampening their banner-raising ceremony.
Any reason for concern, especially given the shortened season?
“I don’t worry,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “That doesn’t really solve much, does it?”
Los Angeles even had Anze Kopitar back in the lineup after he missed the season opener with a knee injury. Kopitar injured his knee shortly before the lockout ended in a collision while playing in Sweden. He has led Los Angeles in scoring in each of the last five seasons.
But Kopitar’s presence couldn’t help get the Kings’ offence on track. He didn’t have a shot on net in nearly 20 minutes of play.
Clifford gave the Kings the early lead off a rebound late in the first period. He set up the play, too, by dishing an outlet pass to Jordan Nolan, who lined a shot off Varlamov’s pads and straight to the stick of the hustling Clifford.
It could’ve been more, but the Avs killed off two penalties.
In an attempt to win back fans, the Avalanche released an apology letter before the game, saying the organization understands the frustration.
“We do not take lightly the responsibility of ensuring that your experience exceeds the level of passion and enthusiasm that you provide our sport, team and players on a daily basis,” the letter read.
It was signed by team governor Josh Kroenke, general manager Greg Sherman, coach Joe Sacco and Landeskog.
The team also played a “welcome back” video for the fans and gave out gifts such as season tickets.
But a win, well, that was the best makeup present the Avs could’ve given.
“They were waiting for something good to happen,” Sacco said. “It took us a little over one period to do that. But once that happened you could feel the electricity in the building. It was fun for our guys again to play in front of their home fans.”
Notes: Los Angeles placed defenceman Matt Greene (back) on injured reserve Monday. … Avs F Steve Downie left the game in the second period with a knee injury. … Avs F Matt Duchene took a puck off the chin but still played after trainers stitched up the cut.