EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Sidney Crosby didn’t score a goal in his NHL debut, but he did pick up an assist in the Penguins 5-1 loss at New Jersey on Wednesday.
Crosby, whom the Penguins selected with the first-overall choice in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, nearly scored on his first shift much like teammate Mario Lemieux did in his 1984 NHL debut. Instead, Crosby’s backhander was denied by Devils goalie Martin Brodeur early in the first period.
However, Crosby set up the Penguins’ only goal in the third period with a beautiful cross-crease pass to Mark Recchi, who buried the puck past Brodeur with 14:24 remaining in the game. John LeClair had the other assist on the play in his Penguins debut.
The Penguins peppered Brodeur early in the first period as four quick power plays turned New Jersey’s end into a shooting gallery. Pittsburgh built a 14-2 shooting edge, but Brodeur was strong and came through with a pair of spectacular saves on Ryan Malone and Ziggy Palffy to blank the Penguins on 17 shots in the first.
New Jersey retaliated with 2:05 left in the period. Following a scrum in front of goaltender Jocelyn Thibault, Sergei Brylin was able to lift a backhander past a sprawled-out Thibault to make it 1-0.
Rookie Zach Parise scored his first NHL goal with 35 seconds remaining on the clock. He lifted a rebound over Thibault’s left leg pad for a power-play goal and a 2-0 Devils lead.
Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar nearly beat Brodeur as he hit the post on a power play with about 11 minutes to play in the second period.
New Jersey threatened to make it 3-0, but Thibault made a nice save on a 3-on-2 with about 4:25 left on the clock.
Brian Gionta did push the score to 3-0, however, with 3:32 on the clock. He stole the puck off a Penguins defenseman and skated down the right wing. Thibault stopped the initial shot, but Gionta was able to reach back and flip the rebound over Thibault.
Brodeur remained strong in the second period as he stopped all nine of the Penguins’ shots and denied Pittsburgh’s three power-play chances.
Gionta gave the Devils a 4-0 edge with a power-play goal. His shot deflected off a Penguin defenseman’s stick and trickled past Thibault 3:29 into the third.
The Penguins finally beat Brodeur when Recchi tapped the puck past Brodeur from Crosby’s cross-crease pass for a power-play goal.
Brylin scored his second goal of the evening when he rifled a wrister past Thibault with 6:55 to play.
Brodeur stopped 36 of the 37 shots he faced on the night. Thibault made 32 saves.
Pittsburgh is off on Thursday before it travels to Carolina on Friday to take on the Hurricanes. The Penguins return home Saturday to meet the Boston Bruins at Mellon Arena at 7:30 p.m.
ICE CHIPS – Penguins center Maxime Talbot switched his jersey number to 25 prior to Wednesday’s game. He wore number 26 throughout the preseason … The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Baby Penguins opened their American Hockey League season with an impressive 8-1 home win over Bridgeport. Erik Christensen scored four goals, while Ryan Whitney had four assists. Tomas Surovy had two goals. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 of 27 shots to earn the win.