Last night was supposed to be a night of celebration in Pittsburgh. A night of “turning the page” on last season’s upset Game Seven defeat in the final game played in Mellon Arena against the Montreal Canadiens. A night of christening a brand new – and gorgeous looking facility, might I add – building in the CONSOL Energy Center. A night for Sidney Crosby to once again take center position on the National Hockey League stage. A night that Gary Bettman could see the once-fledgling franchise he “saved” get reborn in a new building and in front of a newly-found passionate following.
Instead, it turned out to be a night where the Philadelphia Flyers simply didn’t get the memo, and absolutely crashed the party.
The Flyers, a team that entered last night’s contest as the defending Eastern Conference Champions, hardly were given an ounce of respect from the announcers and producers of the broadcast, let alone from the fans in Pittsburgh or the Pens themselves. Instead, much like last season, the Flyers had to work and earn the respect of their peers and opponents, and that they did – convincingly – again.
After a sluggish first period that saw the Flyers give up 15 shots against, the Flyers finally got their legs in the second period and took the game over. The main reason that the Flyers even were in this contest after the first period of action was simply because of the play of rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The 22-year old Russian, who surprisingly was given the start in goal over Brian Boucher last night, dazzled all night long. “Bob” as he’s referred to in Flyers circles, made 29 saves on 31 shots and won his first career regular season NHL start in about as hostile an environment as they come, outside, of course, of the Wells Fargo Center.
Once the first period ended, and Bobrovsky settled in, the Flyers got their legs and took the play to the Penguins, outshooting them 10-9 in the second period, and 8-7 in the third frame. The second period saw the first ever goal scored in the history of the CONSOL Energy Center – and it was by a Flyer. Danny Briere redirected a Braydon Coburn shot from the point on the power play past a clueless Marc-Andre Fleury and into the back of the net to make it 1-0 Philadelphia. 15 minutes later, with a little less than three minutest to go in the third period, the Flyers struck again, as Darroll Powe redirected a James van Riemsdyk shot and Blair Betts scooped up the fortuitous rebound and blasted it into the back of the empty net to make it 2-0 Flyers.
The Pens got a quick start to the third period, as Bobrovsky got caught up with Braydon Coburn in moving across his crease, leaving a gaping hole for Tyler Kennedy to roof a wrister through from below the circles. While that goal cut the score to 2-1, the Flyers kept pressing and, much unlike past seasons, didn’t buckle down and took the pressure TO the Penguins, instead of the other way around. That resulted in the biggest goal of the game, a Claude Giroux shorthanded marker in which Giroux picked Kris Letang’s pocked on a pass that was intended for his defensive partner Paul Martin, and the shifty Flyers winger deked Fleury out of his jock strap and deposited the puck in the back of the net to make it 3-1 Flyers. The goal by Giroux would prove to be a huge one as just seconds later, the Penguins would strike on the powerplay, by way of an Alex Goligoski redirection that Bobrovsky never had a chance on.
Still, the Flyers hung tough and withstood a furious late comeback attempt by Pittsburgh and were able to take care of the Pens in the season opener for both teams. Chris Pronger did not play in the game for Philadelphia as he still doesn’t feel that his knee is ready to go, but could be in action tomorrow night against St. Louis.
The Flyers will use today as a travel day and take on the Jaroslav Halak and the St. Louis Blues tomorrow in Missouri.
The season has OFFICIALLY begun!
-Sidenote: An old teammate of mine, Eric Tangradi, played for the Penguins last night (wore #26). He is a Philly boy, born and raised and I can only imagine how incredible of a thrill it must have been to get to play against a hometown team like that. Not to mention, the kid played a helluva game, look out for him this year!