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Penguins play at home for first time since Cup win

Marc-Andre Fleury makes 24 saves to shut out Blackhawks in preseason game

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- On June 12, more than 16,000 fans gathered inside Consol Energy Center to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup.

The crowd exploded when defenseman Kris Letang gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead against the San Jose Sharks 7:46 into the second period of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. The fans littered the ice with hats and towels when forward Patric Hornqvist sealed the 3-1 Cup-clinching win with an empty-net goal with 1:02 remaining.

The fans stayed to watch Penguins captain Sidney Crosby hoist the Cup and pass it to defenseman Trevor Daley, and then charged to the concourse for a spontaneous celebration before filing out onto the streets of uptown Pittsburgh.

Video: PIT@SJS: Crosby, Pens celebrate fourth Stanley Cup

It was a jubilant scene with just one problem. The Penguins were more than 2,500 miles away in San Jose.

That wasn't the case Friday, when the Penguins played at Consol Energy Center for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup. A smaller, but appreciative, crowd greeted the defending Stanley Cup champions for their first preseason home game, a 1-0 win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"We wished we could have finished [the Stanley Cup run] off here to see the crowd's excitement," forward Eric Fehr said, "but we love playing in front of these guys, and it was good to get the first win at home. The fan support has been tremendous, especially during that playoff run. They were as loud as I've heard any building in the NHL and they were with us through it all."

Without Crosby, who helped Team Canada win the World Cup of Hockey 2016 on Thursday, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin, Letang and Hornqvist, much of the Penguins' customary firepower was absent. So, the attention fell to Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 24 saves to earn the shutout in his first start in Pittsburgh since May 22.

"It just feels like home, you know?" Fleury said. "It feels comfortable. I think we have such great fan support over the years, and it's always fun to be here in Pittsburgh and play in front of them."

A few of Fleury's saves were worthy of the crowd chanting his last name. One such save came with 1:03 remaining in the second period, when Fleury used his blocker to deny forward Tyler Motte on a breakaway.

Video: CHI@PIT: Fleury shrugs off a final shot to secure win

"I need [preseason]. I need it, that's for sure," said Fleury, who missed the final five games of the regular season with a concussion and played in two playoff games, mostly serving as the backup to Matt Murray. "I think it's just getting back into game shape a little bit, getting the timing back … I think it's all about getting ready for the first game of the season. That's all I'm focusing on."

There wasn't much energy in the arena during a scoreless first period, but that changed 25 seconds into the second. Forward Scott Wilson beat goalie Lars Johansson to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead, producing a roar from the crowd with "Party Hard" by Andrew W.K. blaring.

Wilson last played in Pittsburgh on March 5, six days before a broken ankle ended his 2015-16 season.

"I think [Wilson] has had a strong camp so far," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "He came into camp in great shape. … He's a guy that missed a fair amount of time at the end of last season with his injury, so we're trying to get him involved here as much as we can here in this exhibition season."

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