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Crosby rallies Penguins to 5-4 OT win over Columbus

by John Kreiser
Pittsburgh fans finally got a chance to salute their Stanley Cup champions on Tuesday night. Sidney Crosby made sure they went home happy.

Crosby scored twice as Pittsburgh had four third-period goals to overcome a 3-0 deficit, then set up Chris Kunitz for the winner 44 seconds into overtime as the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins rallied for a 5-4 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It was the Penguins' first game at Mellon Arena since they won Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final last June – three nights before taking Game 7 in Detroit to win the Cup.

But it was the Jackets who appeared to be cruising to victory after Jakub Voracek's first-period tip-in and two late second-period goals by Maxim Mayorov made it 3-0 after 40 minutes.

However, Crosby wouldn't let the Penguins go down without a fight. He scored twice in a three-minute span early in the third period to cut the deficit to one, and Chris Conner tied it with 5:16 left in regulation.

Alexandre Picard put Columbus back in front with 2:02 left in regulation, but the lead lasted just 17 seconds until Kunitz scored to force overtime.

Crosby then set up the game-winner by stealing the puck behind the net and feeding Kunitz alone in the slot for a shot past Dan LaCosta, who allowed five goals after ex-Penguin Mathieu Garon was perfect through two periods.

The Pittsburgh captain normally uses a wooden stick, but used a composite stick for the first time. A few more games like this one and he may never go back to wood again.

The Penguins' captain used a composite stick for the first time in his career, opting to try something different than the all-wood stick he historically prefers.

"It's one game in," he joked with the media afterwards. "It's a little early right now. I thought I analyzed it a lot, but you all know more about it than I do."

The game was originally scheduled for Sept. 25 but was moved up back because Pittsburgh is hosting the G-20 summit of world leaders that day and traffic is heavily restricted around the city. The Penguins just reported to camp Saturday -- two days after being honored at the White House by President Barack Obama. They went through only their third practice of training camp earlier in the day Tuesday.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma realized a sloppy performance was possible because of the team's quick start to the exhibition season.

"You're trying to, in a very short period of time, institute how we want to play, the philosophy we want to play, the details and the habits we want to play," Bylsma said. "Two practices is not a lot of time to do that."

Bruins 2, Rangers 1

Tuukka Rask blanked the Rangers 1-0 in January in his only NHL action of 2008-09. He looked every bit as good in Boston's preseason opener, stopping 31 shots in a rare complete-game effort as the Bruins edged the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Boston dominated the first period, outshooting the Rangers 14-5 and grabbing the lead on Zach Hamill's goal against Steve Valiquette on the first of the Bruins' four power plays.

But the Rangers regrouped in the second, firing 14 shots – only to have Rask stop them all. Max Sauve's power-play backhander past Matt Zaba 6:39 into the third period made it 2-0 before the Rangers finally solved Rask when Christopher Higgins snapped home a rebound at 10:05.

"As the game went on there were some good things," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I don't want to name names because I may forget someone but as the game went on I thought we played well. We switched the lines around a little and I think everyone contributed."

The Rangers played without their big free-agent acquisition, Marian Gaborik, who's been plagued by a sore groin early in camp. They also gave All-Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist the night off. Boston played without its top five scorers from last season, including No. 1 center Marc Savard, as well as Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas.

Rask is battling veteran Dany Sabourin for the backup job behind Thomas and didn't hurt himself with his performance.

"After I got a couple of shots, I felt normal and felt pretty good," Rask said. "It was kind of hot out there, but otherwise I felt good.

"I think it was solid, no mistakes. The goal was a rebound but it was kind of a tough shot. The plan was to shut them down the whole 60 minutes, but unfortunately I gave up a goal."

Sabourin will play Wednesday night at Toronto.

"That's where the competition starts," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "The number of shots (Rask) got, and how he handled some of those pucks ... there was a lot of traffic in front of him, and he found ways to find the puck. That was certainly one of the bright spots."

Panthers 3, Senators 1

The Panthers, who are training in Nova Scotia, opened their preseason schedule with a "home" win in Halifax after spotting the Senators an early lead.
Ottawa opened the scoring with a power-play goal on a slap shot by Alexandre Picard that beat goaltender Scott Clemmensen at 15:22. But the Panthers went ahead with two goals in a 2:32 span before the end of the period. Scott Timmins converted a pass from Nathan Horton to tie it, and Kamil Kreps beat Pascal Leclaire during a delayed penalty 95 seconds later to put Florida ahead to stay.

David Booth scored in the final seconds of the middle period, tapping a loose puck behind backup goaltender Robin Lehner.

The Senators left most of their stars, including Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and newcomer Jonathan Cheechoo, back in Ottawa. The best news for the Senators was the play of Leclaire, who's being counted on to take the No. 1 goaltending job after being acquired at the trade deadline last March but missing the rest of the season with an ankle injury. He stopped 14 of 16 shots.

"For a guy who hasn't played for a long time, I thought it was a pretty good first step for him," Senators coach Cory Clouston said.

The teams go to Ottawa for a rematch on Wednesday as the Panthers begin a three-week world tour that includes exhibition games in Edmonton, Dallas and Sunrise, Fla., before kicking off the season on Oct. 3 in Finland against Chicago.

Blues 3, Wild 1

Hours after picking up coach Andy Murray's option for 2010-11, the Blues welcomed back Paul Kariya, who scored a goal in his first game action in almost a year to help St. Louis beat visiting Minnesota in the preseason opener for both teams.

Kariya, who missed all but 11 games a season ago after having surgery on both hips, played for the first time since Nov. 5, 2008. The Blues also welcomed back defenseman Erik Johnson, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 Entry Draft, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.

"Both of them were excited, and they were both a bit nervous, too," Murray said. "No matter how long you play, you love to play the game. You really miss it when you're away from it."

Kariya scored 4:25 into the opening period, beating Wild goalie Anton Khudobin after using defenseman Jamie Fraser as a screen. Chris Porter scored 29 seconds later off an assist from Derek Armstrong, who is in camp with the Blues on a pro tryout.

Armstrong added the Blues' other goal. Benoit Pouliot scored in the final minute for Minnesota, which left most of its top-line players at home.

"He's a character guy," Murray said of Armstrong, whom he coached in Los Angeles. "He loves to play the game. He's a good fit for this organization."

Chris Mason stopped all 10 shots he faced for the Blues before being replaced by St. Louis native Ben Bishop midway through the second period.

Oilers 4, Flames 1

Calgary visits Edmonton twice in the first week of the regular season, so the two teams were understandably edgy when they met at the Pengrowth Saddledome in their exhibition opener. Patrick O’Sullivan led the Oilers to the win with a pair of goals in a game that featured plenty of feistiness on both sides of the warmup for this season’s Battle of Alberta.

It was also the first night with their new teams for both coaches – Brent Sutter with Calgary and Pat Quinn with the Oilers. Sutter cane to Calgary after two years with New Jersey; Quinn hasn't coached in the NHL since leaving Toronto in 2005-06.

"In my time away, I found I missed it badly," Quinn said of being behind the bench. "All in all, I'm really pleased with this opportunity. I've got a feeling we've got some really nice kids here. I'm looking forward to working with them."

"Obviously we've got a lot to work on.  The effort was there. It's a matter of executing a little better."
-- Flames forward David Moss

O’Sullivan opened the scoring with a long snap shot past Matt Keetley 10:11 into the game, then made it 2-0 by knocking in a loose puck 1:25 into the second. Jason Jaffray made it 2-1 by scoring a power-play goal midway through the third period. But Tom Gilbert’s power-play goal with 4:33 remaining restored the Oilers’ two-goal lead, and Shawn Horcoff hit the empty net with 28 seconds remaining.

Sutter has been busy at training camp teaching a new system to the Flames, and it might take a little more time for the execution to be there.

"Obviously we've got a lot to work on," said forward David Moss, one of the veterans in the Flames' lineup. "The effort was there. It's a matter of executing a little better."

Coyotes 4, Kings 2 | Kings 4, Coyotes 3

Phoenix and Los Angeles split a "doubleheader," with each team winning at home.

The Coyotes dressed a mostly veteran lineup for their victory at Arena. With associate coach Ulf Samuelsson running the team in place of Wayne Gretzky, Vernon Fiddler broke a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal late in the second period. Jeff Hoggan and David Spina – who went to high school in the area – added third-period goals. Jim Vandermeer opened the scoring for the Coyotes; Wayne Simmonds had both goals for the Kings.

"I thought we played a good game," Samuelsson said. "We controlled the puck well. I thought we battled hard for the first game (of the preseason)."

Defenseman Jack Johnson was the hero for the Kings at the Staples Center, scoring a pair of goals and adding an assist. Johnson opened the scoring with a power-play goal 17 minutes into the game, and his shorthanded goal with 8:54 left in regulation proved to be the game-winner.

Jason Williams and Ted Purcell also scored for the Kings, with Purcell’s power-play goal 8:39 into the third period breaking a 2-2 tie. Mikkel Boedker, Keith Yandle and Peter Mueller scored for Phoenix.

Jonathan Bernier made 22 saves for the Kings, including one on Lauri Korpikoski’s second-period penalty shot.

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.

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