Stastny records hat trick as Avs start another season with win

DENVER (AP) -- Paul Stastny was just following in the skates of his old man.

The second-year center had his first career hat trick Wednesday night and the Colorado Avalanche held off the Dallas Stars for a 4-3 victory in the season opener for both teams.

Peter Stastny, a star with the Quebec Nordiques, had a hat trick against Buffalo on Oct. 6, 1982.

His son, though, didn't want to compare himself to his father, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998.

"He's way better than me," Paul Stastny said grinning. "But it's good to get a hat trick."

Stastny's three-goal game was the first by a Colorado player on opening night since Dale Hunter did it on Oct. 4, 1983, against the New York Islanders.

After scoring his third goal midway through the second period, the fans littered the ice with hats.

But Stastny downplayed his accomplishment.

"Anyone on the team can chip in," Stastny said. "Today, I was a little lucky. It helped out because we needed goals."

Colorado led 4-1 after two periods, but the Stars made things interesting when Jussi Jokinen scored midway through the third and Niklas Hagman added another at 17:10.

The Stars pulled goalie Marty Turco with 1:10 remaining, but couldn't score.

Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj, who made a flurry of saves in the closing seconds, finished with 31 saves.

"Hopefully, we're going to build on this," Budaj said.

Or continue where they left off last season. The Avalanche finished 2006-07 as the hottest team in hockey, going 15-2-2 over their final 19 games in a frenzied dash toward a playoff spot.

However, the Avalanche missed out by a point. They don't want experience that again.

"That's the start we're looking for," said Wojtek Wolski, who added a goal late in the second period. "We want to make sure that carries over into the next 10, 20 games."

Turco gave up four goals on 17 shots through the first two periods, drawing the ire of coach Dave Tippett.

"We're going to need better goaltending than that," Tippett said. "We have to if our team is to succeed."

Tippett liked the energy of the Stars -- at the end at least.

"You have to have the urgency before that," he said. "To win in this league you have to commit to winning one-on-one battles and creating space for yourself by skating. We didn't have enough players doing that."

Although the Avalanche signed big name free agents in Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan over the summer, the newcomer who made the biggest impact in the season opener was Jaroslav Hlinka, who had two assists in his NHL debut.

Hlinka joined the Avalanche from the Czech League, where he shared the scoring title. He had 19 goals and 38 assists in 48 games for HC Sparta last season.

"He's an easy player to play with," said Stastny, who finished last season with 28 goals and wound up second in the Calder Trophy voting behind Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin. "He keeps it simple, he always moves it to you when you get open. He's got good speed and he's confident with the puck."

Colorado coach Joel Quenneville was certainly pleased with the production of the line of Stastny, Hlinka and Andrew Brunette, who had three assists.

All told, the Avalanche's second line had three goals and five assists.

"Our balance is throughout our lineup," Quenneville said. "We encourage everybody to think scoring."

Game notes
Hagman made his 400th career NHL game memorable with a goal and an assist. ... The Avalanche moved to 16-5-7 in franchise history in season openers, the best winning percentage in the NHL. ... Hannan spent a team-leading 28:05 on the ice. ... Jeff Halpern, who had a second-period goal, said the reason for the Stars loss was simple. "Too many turnovers," he said.