Avs, Artturi Lehkonen celebrate “banner night” at Ball Arena with 4-2 win over Chicago


On banner night, Artturi Lehkonen decided to have one himself.

Lehkonen, a Stanley Cup-winning hero acquired by the Avs from Montreal last March, scored two second-period goals to help power Colorado to a 5-2 win over Chicago on the opening night of the 2022-23 season late Wednesday night at Ball Arena.

The Avs opened the evening with an emotional, 30-minute pregame ceremony that featured Blink-182 singer Mark Hoppus, a victory lap by captain Gabe Landeskog with the Stanley Cup, and the raising of the 2022 NHL championship banner to the rafters.

But the on-ice fireworks were only just getting started.

Both of the goals from Lehkonen, whose clutch postseason moments were part of the evening’s Cup celebration, came via the power play. And the first was pure poetry for a packed arena on Chopper Circle on-hand to celebrate the Avs’ first title defense in 21 years.

With 16:11 to go in the second stanza, Avs star Nathan MacKinnon drew the defense to the left of the goal, opening up a passing lane for Lehkonen trailing behind him. MacKinnon exposed a chasing Chicago defense by quickly passing the puck to linemate Mikko Rantanen, who was stationed just behind the net and out of the goalie’s line of sight. Rantanen then turned and flipped the biscuit back to the hard-charging Lehkonen, who finished the bang-bang sequence with the hosts’ third goal of the evening.

Midway through the period, Lehkonen struck again with the power-play unit, this time attacking the left side of the crease, altering a Mikko Rantanen laser past Chicago goalie Petr Mrazek to the glove side for a 4-1 lead.

Colorado forward Valeri Nichushkin capped the scoring for the Cup champs with another redirected goal on another power play, tipping one of Cale Makar’s efforts from the blue line with 2:57 left in the game for a 5-2 Avs advantage.

Four of the hosts’ five goals came on the power play.

The Avs had been frustrated by Mrazek early, as the hosts peppered the Czech netminder with seven shot attempts, only to be denied.

But the eighth shot found the back of the net and opened the flood gates, thanks to a redirect and a funny bounce.


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