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PITTSBURGH | The debut went remarkably well, with barely a glitch and with all the accompanying excitement of an opening night that will never be duplicated again.
The goalie’s, that is, not the arena’s.
Surprise starter Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 29 shots in his first NHL game, Danny Briere and Blair Betts scored the first two goals, and the Philadelphia Flyers spoiled the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ opening night in their new arena by winning 3-2 on Thursday.
“It wasn’t anything too extraordinary,” Bobrovsky said. “I wasn’t too nervous. I was ready for this.”
With starter Michael Leighton likely sidelined for another two weeks, Brian Boucher was expected to start in net, but the Flyers went instead with a goalie who was 9-22-3 — although with a sub-3.00 goals-against average — for Novokvznetsk of Russia’s KHL last season.
“We’re all pretty happy for him,” Briere said. “He looked good, he felt pretty comfortable all day.”
“I never see this guy play, never met him,” Malkin said. “It’s a little bit harder when you don’t know how he plays, nothing about him.”
For the first time in their 44-season history, the Penguins played a home game in a brand-new arena as an above-capacity 18,289 jammed into the Consol Energy Arena — a building made certain only after Crosby’s arrival in 2005 rejuvenated hockey interest in Pittsburgh.
Fittingly, Crosby nearly got the first goal, putting a shot off the post 10 minutes in. About then, fans accustomed to the Civic Arena’s ancient seats and narrow concourses were marveling in the spacious new arena’s plushness.
Instead, Briere — the Flyers‘ leading scorer during their run to the Stanley Cup finals last spring — was the first to put the puck into one of the new nets at 2:51 of the second, only 6 seconds after Deryk Engelland went off for hooking.
“We hit some posts, took some shots he didn’t see,” Crosby said. “We did some good things. You want to win the first one, every guy in here wants to, everyone that came tonight wanted to see us win it. But that’s the game. It’s unfortunate.”
By Bob Dole
The industrious island has proved itself worthy of U.S. inclusion
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