PITTSBURGH (AP) — Surprise starter Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 29 shots in his NHL debut, Danny Briere and Blair Betts scored the first two goals, and the Flyers spoiled the Pittsburgh Penguins’ debut game in their new arena by winning 3-2 on Thursday night.
For the first time in their 44-season history, the Penguins played a home game in a brand-new building as an above-capacity 18,289 jammed into the Consol Energy Arena — a building made certain only after Sidney Crosby’s arrival in 2005 rejuvenated hockey interest in Pittsburgh.
Crosby nearly got the first goal, putting a shot off the post 10 minutes in, or about the time fans accustomed to the former 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. Briere’s power-play goal off Mike Richards’ pass at 2:51 of the second came only 6 seconds after Deryk Engelland went off for hooking.
Betts made it 2-0 late in the period with another power-play goal, stuffing in a rebound of Darroll Powe’s shot that ticked off the back of James van Riemsdyk as he skated toward the net.
The 22-year-old Bobrovsky, the youngest goalie to start a Flyers opener by 142 days, turned aside Pittsburgh’s first 24 shots before Tyler Kennedy scored from along the goal line 44 seconds into the third period.
Claude Giroux restored the Flyers’ two-goal lead at 4:55 by stealing Kris Letang’s lazy pass intended for Paul Martin in the Penguins’ zone and beat Marc-Andre Fleury on a short breakaway. Fleury made 24 saves in his first game since the Penguins’ Stanley Cup championship reign ended with a 5-2 loss in Game 7 to Montreal on May 12.
Alex Goligoski scored Pittsburgh’s first power-play goal of the season only 19 seconds later, but the Flyers killed off a Penguins power play over the final 1:13.
The Penguins didn’t know much about Bobrovsky, who displaced Ron Hextall as the youngest goalie to start a Flyers opener — probably one reason coach Peter Laviolette played him.
With starter Michael Leighton likely sidelined for another two weeks, Brian Boucher was expected to start, 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.
Bobrovsky didn’t look intimidated by the Penguins’ collection of scorers or uncomfortable in the new arena, probably because every arena will be new to him this season. He was helped when Martin and Crosby put shots off the post before the Flyers got going offensively.
The Penguins also lost their first game in their former home, the Civc Arena, 2-1 to Montreal on Oct. 11, 1967, or about 6 years after that arena opened without a sports team tenant.
Notes: Flyers D Chris Pronger (knee surgery) missed his first regular-season game in three seasons. … Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux dropped the opening puck after emptying a bottle of water taken from the melted ice at the Civic Arena. … The Flyers won only their fourth in their last 13 against Pittsburgh. … The Penguins played before their 167th consecutive home sellout.
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