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Staal, Hurricanes beat Penguins 4-1

by John Kreiser /
Sidney Crosby was unable to lead his team to victory in his debut as Penguins' captain.
Sidney Crosby’s debut as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins was a dud.

At age 20, Crosby is the youngest captain in NHL history, as well as the reigning scoring champ. But in his first game wearing the “C,” Crosby and the rest of the talented young Penguins were upstaged by the Carolina Hurricanes. Eric Staal had a pair of first-period goals as the Hurricanes dominated the Penguins in Pittsburgh’s season-opener, 4-1 Friday night.

Crosby, the youngest captain in NHL history, had just one shot on goal in 19:27 of ice time and was rarely a factor – especially in the first two periods, when the ’Canes built a 4-0 lead.

“Just one game, but you want to start well – there's no hiding that,'' said Crosby, who spent most of the night trying unsuccessfully to shake the checking of Rod Brind’Amour. ''You can't blow your season in the opener by any means, but you have to make sure you get in good habits.''

While Crosby looked ordinary, Staal resembled the player whose 45-goal, 100-point season helped Carolina win the Stanley Cup in 2006, rather than the one who dropped to 30 goals and 70 points last season.

“He came into camp in great shape, and that puts you in the right direction to having success,'' Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. ''He certainly is, I think, showing that he worked hard this summer by the way he's playing the game. When he does that, he can dominate.''

Dominate he did against his younger brother Jordan’s team.

Staal scored twice in a 6:13 span of the opening period as the Hurricanes took command early. Andrew Ladd and Jeff Hamilton added second-period goals before Mark Recchi spoiled Cam Ward’s shutout bid with 3:23 to play.

Ward finished with 33 saves and improved to 6-2-0 against the Penguins. The Conn Smythe Trophy winner in the Hurricanes’ 2006 Cup win has stopped 70 of the 74 shots he’s faced in Carolina’s two games after a disappointing performance last season.

''It's just a matter of coming out every night and being mentally prepared,'' Ward said. ''I do the best that I can to hold myself accountable to be right mentally, get myself fired up before the game, because every game means a lot. You look at last year, we were fighting for our playoff lives. You never want to look back early into the season, wishing that you had a win here or there.''

Stars 4, Bruins 1
Mike Modano moved within six points of passing Phil Housley for the NHL scoring record for U.S.-born players with an assist as the Stars spoiled Boston’s opener.

Modano, now 37, got career point 1,227 with a second-period assist on Brendan Morrow’s goal that made it 3-0. Sergei Zubov, also 37, added a goal and an assist for the Stars, who started the season with a 4-3 loss at Colorado on Wednesday but won their fifth straight home opener and improved to 8-0-1 in their last nine.

Niklas Hagman scores a goal around Boston Bruins goalie Manny Fernandez.
The Stars made few changes from the team that was eliminated by Vancouver in the first round of the playoffs last spring.

"Year to year, it's just different, even with the same guys, the same team," said goaltender Marty Turco, who made 24 saves. "The mentality from being hungry, to being deep and physically strong, that's a key component."

Patrice Bergeron scored the only goal for Boston, which lost in Claude Julien’s debut as coach. The Bruins, who are opening the season with a five-game Western trip, are now 0-4-1 in their last five opening games.

"We started really well, but we made a couple of costly mistakes and we paid for it," Julien said. "Losing a game is one thing, but beating yourself is another thing. ... We need to get our noses dirty in those tough areas."

Blue Jackets 4, Ducks 0
Ken Hitchcock’s first full season as coach in Columbus got off to a rousing start, perhaps with a little help from the schedule-maker.

Anaheim, playing its fourth game in seven days, looked weary after playing twice in London last weekend and in Detroit on Wednesday night. The Ducks were listless for much of the first two periods, while the Blue Jackets were pumped up for their season-opener at home.

Despite the hectic travel schedule, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle wasn’t buying fatigue as the cause for his team’s poor showing.

"Those are excuses," he said. "That's the way it goes. We didn't have the energy that was necessary to compete at the level they played at."

Rick Nash had two goals and set up the other two for Columbus, which led 2-0 and had 14 shots on goal before the Ducks got one shot on Pascal Leclaire, who finished with 28 saves for his second career shutout.

“They came at us right from the start of the game," forward Ryan Getzlaf said of the Blue Jackets. "We weren't prepared for it. We did a lot of things tonight and none of them were the right ones."

The Blue Jackets got a standing ovation at Nationwide Arena after the first period and were cheered throughout the game.

"It was great," Nash said of the win. "The first game is always like that. You just have to remember not to get too high. It's just the first game."

The defending Stanley Cup champs have one more stop on their “Ducks Around The World” tour – they play in Pittsburgh on Saturday before heading back to the West Coast for Wednesday’s home opener against Boston.

Islanders 6, Sabres 4
The Islanders started 2007-08 in the HSBC Arena – the same building where their 2006-07 season ended – but the results were a lot better.

The Isles’ all-newcomer line of Mike Comrie between Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin tore up the Sabres, combining for 10 points. Comrie had two goals and two assists, Fedotenko had a power-play goal and two assists and Guerin set up three goals as the Islanders ended a four-game losing streak in season-openers. The Isles had won just one of their last 11 opening games.

Rick DiPietro held the Sabres scoreless in the third period, as the Isles hung on for a 6-4 victory.
"We've been together since the first day of camp, so there aren't excuses about gelling," said Comrie, who matched his career best with the four-point night.

The Islanders lost to Buffalo in five games in the opening round of last spring’s playoffs. They signed Comrie, Fedotenko and Guerin after losing forwards Ryan Smyth, Jason Blake and Viktor Kozlov to free agency and buying out Alexei Yashin’s contract.

"We're very proud of the players that we have and we don't want to talk too much about the people that left," Isles coach Ted Nolan said. "We want to talk about the people that are here."

The Sabres, who lost star centers Daniel Briere and Chris Drury during the summer, started fast after hoisting their first Presidents’ Trophy banner and led 2-1 before the Isles cashed in both halves of a 5-on-3 power play midway through the first period. Comrie then scored twice in the second period, with his breakaway goal at 16:04 snapping a 4-4 tie.

"The defensive zone seemed chaotic," said Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller, who had little chance on any of the six goals. "We were a little overanxious."

The teams meet again at the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday night.

Capitals 3, Thrashers 1
Washington went shopping in New York this summer, and the results were on display in the Caps’ season-opening victory in Atlanta.

Michael Nylander, signed away from the New York Rangers, had the Capitals’ first goal, and Viktor Kozlov, a former Islander, got an insurance goal in the third period.

Nylander, who helped the Rangers sweep the Thrashers in the first round of the playoffs last spring, scored midway through the first period with an assist from highly touted rookie Nicklas Backstrom. Defenseman John Erskine scored less than two minutes later to make it 2-0. Atlanta rookie Bryan Little cut the margin to 2-1 with the only goal of the second period, but Kozlov’s goal at 6:27 of the third period put the game away.

"It's very important to start the season the right way," Kozlov said.

Atlanta never recovered from the slow start.

"We certainly didn't skate very well, and that put us on our heels," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said.

Alexander Ovechkin didn’t score but did have an assist on Kozlov’s goal and drew praise from coach Glen Hanlon.

"I thought Ovechkin played his best game," Hanlon said. "He was so sound all over the ice. He is going to score goals for us, but he does so many things well."

Sharks 3, Canucks 1
Maybe the Canucks should ask the NHL to schedule a different opponent for its home opener. The San Jose Sharks keep spoiling the party.

Jeremy Roenick had two of San Jose’s three first-period goals as the Sharks jumped to a big lead and shut down the Canucks to spoil opening night at GM Place for the second year in a row.

Jeremy Roenick scored two goals in the Sharksa' 3-1 win.
A year ago, the Canucks came home after a four-game road trip and lost 6-4 to San Jose. This time, Vancouver opened its season at home against the Sharks, and the result was the same.

Joe Thornton scored 5:30 into the game and Roenick added a pair of goals to give the Sharks a three-goal margin less than 16 minutes into the game.

"It was awesome just to help the team," said Roenick, who signed a one-year deal with the Sharks this summer. "I was in the right place at the right time. Those are the ones you want more of."

Roenick now has 497 career goals, five behind Joe Mullen, who’s second among U.S.-born players. He’s third in points with 1,172.

Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov did the rest, stopping 22 of Vancouver’s 23 shots. Brendan Morrison got Vancouver’s only goal early in the third period.

Wire services contributed to this story

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