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Flames burned by early penalties as notorious slow starts continue

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DENVER – The punch in the face Milan Lucic delivered to Nikita Zadorov late in the second period is the one they’ll show on all the highlight reels.

However, it was the opening gut punch Zadorov’s Avalanche handed the Calgary Flames that was the real story of the night.

Riding a wave of emotion created by a raucous opening night crowd at Pepsi Center, the Colorado Avalanche picked up right where they left off against the Flames last spring when they dummied them in five games during the first round of the playoffs.

Handed two power plays in the first five minutes, the Avalanche outshot the visitors 14-3 in a first period clinic that somehow saw the Flames down just 2-1 because of goaltender David Rittich.

Despite tying the game early in the second with the Flames’ second power-play goal of the night, the visitors tried playing catch up the rest of the night against a team that boasted one of the best power-play units in the league last year.

A case can be made it’s an even better bunch this year as Nazem Kadri and Cale Makar have replaced Colin Wilson and Tyson Barrie on a power play anchored by Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon.........

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