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Penguins spoil Flames opener with 5-3 win

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- The Pittsburgh Penguins countered Calgary's opening-night pregame laser show with some second-period fireworks.

The Penguins used a four-goal middle period to beat the Flames 5-3 on Saturday night, spoiling the start of the new season for the sellout crowd at the Scotiabank Saddledome -- just as they did two nights earlier in Vancouver, when they beat the Canucks 4-3 at Rogers Arena. Pittsburgh, still playing without Sidney Crosby as he recuperates from a concussion, will try for a perfect swing through Western Canada on Sunday night in Edmonton.

Jordan Staal and Matt Niskanen had a goal and an assist as the Penguins received goals from five players. Marc-Andre Fleury made 17 saves as Pittsburgh outshot Calgary 38-20.

The Flames opened the scoring at 15:32 of the first period after defenseman Mark Giordano slid between Penguins forwards Craig Adams and Arron Asham and fed an open Curtis Glencross in the slot. Glencross one-timed the puck behind goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

But the Penguins awoke in an explosive second period that saw them outshoot Calgary 16-5 and beat Miikka Kiprusoff four times.

"They came out really hard and we expected that from them," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It was their opener. They outbattled us and outworked us a lot in that first period and that was really the adjustment we made. Our guys responded real well, came out and played much better, a lot more solid second period, managed the puck, executed better so we could play a game where we're in the offensive zone and play where we need to play."

Tyler Kennedy put Pittsburgh on the board 1:04 into the middle period. Sprung on a 2-on-1 after stepping out of the penalty box, Kennedy looked Flames defenseman Chris Butler back and snapped a shot from the bottom of the left circle between Kiprusoff's legs.

"I was thinking of that when I was in there and I lucked out," Kennedy said. "Hopefully I get a couple more like that."

Niskanen gave the Penguins their first lead at 6:40. The Penguins defenseman corralled his own blocked shot on an odd-man rush and beat a sprawled Kiprusoff for the first of Pittsburgh's two power-play goals in the period.

The Penguins continued to build on their momentum, with Craig Adams and Evgeni Malkin scoring 2:07 apart midway through the period to put the Penguins up 4-1.

The game then took a more physical tone. First, Flames defenseman Cory Sarich caught Penguins forward Matt Cooke with his head down entering the offensive zone, prompting a 10-man skirmish in front of Kiprusoff. Cooke left the game to be evaluated but later returned.

"We went through the League protocol," Bylsma said. "It was a hard hit I know that."

Sarich wasn't fazed by Cooke's reaction to the hit, noting the pesky winger was quick to jump into the scuffle after the play was stopped.

"He made it look more exciting than it was," Sarich said.

The Cooke gathering was followed shortly thereafter by Malkin and Glencross exchanging heated blows at the Pittsburgh blue line. They drew only matching minors - Malkin for roughing and Glencross for slashing.

"Geno, he's a competitive player, no question," said Staal, who recorded his 200th career NHL point on Niskanen's goal. "Things get heated out there and Geno's not shy to get into the mix."

The Flames made a game of it in the third. Rene Bourque cut the margin to 4-2 at 9:08 when he redirected a hard feed from Alex Tanguay past Fleury. Olli Jokinen made it a one-goal game with 3:36 remaining, converting a passout by Niklas Hagman after Fleury misplayed the puck behind the net.

Staal hit the empty net for the final margin.

It wasn't the result the Flames were looking for, but forward Tim Jackman said the club would be able to draw from the way the team battled back in the third period and build on it heading into their game on Monday in St. Louis.

"It was encouraging," Jackman said. "We know that we can score goals and that we won't quit. We just can't have those shifts in the second period where we take the shift off, take a couple penalties. We kind of lost the game right there."

The Penguins were quick to turn their focus towards Sunday's against the Oilers as they complete their tour of Western Canada and wrap up a stint of three games in four days.

"We enjoyed it," Kennedy said. "It's behind us now and we want to focus on tomorrow and make sure we play well tomorrow."

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