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10th Anniversary of Prudential Center: Looking back at The Rock

Jay Pandolfo looks back at the first Devils victory at The Rock

by Jesse Spector @JesseSpector / newjerseydevils.com

On the day Prudential Center opened, there was a bit of a first-day hiccup, as fire alarms went off and fans had to wait outside a little longer than expected. It was a happy day, though, with the Devils finally having their own home, and on the street outside, Mike Castagno was wearing a team-colors construction helmet with a goal light affixed to the top.

A photographer snapped a picture of Mike hugging his girlfriend Jessica, and planting a kiss on her head as she leaned into him and smiled, and the next day's newspaper gave them a great way to remember the day.

Tweet from @angel121600: @NJDevils 10 Years ago today - Opening Night at @PruCenter - My husband and I ������ pic.twitter.com/IIvMpHaOii

"It was a horrible game - we didn't even score," Castagno remembered. "The one goal was an own-goal. But it was nice, after all that time at Continental, to have our own building, our banners all up, red and black everywhere."

The Devils indeed scored their only goal of a 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on a puck that bounced in off a penalty killer - it was credited to Brian Gionta. The second game at the Rock went much better for New Jersey.

The first home win for the Devils in their new arena was 10 years ago Tuesday, a 6-1 thumping of the Tampa Bay Lightning. As forgettable as the game was the day Prudential Center opened, the second game was historic for what happened on the ice - the first hat trick at the new building, and the only trifecta of Jay Pandolfo's career.

"Playing pretty much my whole career in Jersey, and spending the beginning of it at the Meadowlands - I had good memories there, winning two Stanley Cups when we were still at the Meadowlands - but it was exciting to get a new, state-of-the-art building," Pandolfo said. "The fans were excited and the players certainly were for the new facility. It was great to get the first win, and to be a big part of it, being there my whole career, it was pretty special."

Pandolfo, who played for the Devils from 1996-2010, finished up his career with a season for the Islanders and a handful of games with the Bruins. In his Devils days, Pandolfo is best remembered for pairing with John Madden on one of the top defensive lines in the NHL in the early 2000s.

When Pandolfo netted his hat trick, Madden assisted on all three goals. And when Madden scored the opening goal of that game, Pandolfo picked up an assist, making it the only four-point game of his 819-game career.

"We were always together, and it seemed like we'd have a different right wing every year, or mix guys in through the year, but we had a lot of success together killing penalties, and we pretty much were always matched against the other team's top line," Pandolfo said. "So, for us, both of us knew the way we played meant a lot, and we took a lot of pride in playing against other teams' best players and trying to shut them down as best we could every night. Him and I took pride in that. We didn't really talk about it that much. We just knew that was our job, and we both enjoyed that role."

The only thing Pandolfo didn't get to enjoy was being showered with hats for his accomplishment in Newark. His third goal was a tip-in, and Pandolfo did not get credit for it until after a video review. Since the goal was scored with only 1:20 left in the third period, by the time Pandolfo got the goal, everyone had gone home.

"So, it wasn't like, you score the goal and everyone knows it's your hat trick," Pandolfo said. "It took a review, and after they saw on the review that I tipped it, that's when I got credit for it. I knew I had tipped it, but I didn't celebrate it like I had a hat trick."

Ten years later, Pandolfo is an assistant coach with the Bruins, while Mike and Jessica wound up getting married. They're still Devils fans, of course, but gave up their season tickets after the run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.

"Having kids replaced that for us," Mike said. But, a decade after their memorable visit to the first day at the Rock, they'll have another first up soon: next Saturday, daughter Kylie will take in her first regular-season game in Newark when the Devils host the Florida Panthers.

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