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Opener Memorable For Everyone Despite Pens Falling Short

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
The final score did not have the Hollywood ending everyone anticipated. Philadelphia held off a spirited third-period comeback attempt by the Penguins to win the first regular-season game at CONSOL Energy Center by a 3-2 count.

But on a night like Thursday, when the Penguins celebrated the opening of their sparkling, brand-new arena, there were still plenty of great memories for everyone to take home even if the end result didn’t net two points for the team wearing black sweaters.

Sandwiched around a trio of Flyers goals there was a one-of-a-kind grand entrance by the Penguins’ players and coaches to kick-start the day, a spine-chilling pre-game ceremony and Tyler Kennedy lifting the 18,289 paid partisans who made up the 167th consecutive sellout from their seats with the first-ever Penguins goal 44 seconds into the third period.

Thursday’s festivities began with thousands of die-hard Penguins supporters gathering outside the American Eagle Outfitters Gate to greet the team to a red carpet entrance. Cameras were snapping at a frivolous pace as head coach Dan Bylsma, captain Sidney Crosby and the rest of the team arrived in style via limo escorts.

If that wasn’t enough to get the crowd rocking, Hall of Fame owner Mario Lemieux’s presence at center ice at the conclusion of the team’s introductory video to pour water from the Civic Arena ice melt onto the surface at CONSOL Energy Center definitely helped due the trick.

Those roars then became deafening when this year’s team was introduced just minutes later, especially when superstars Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were announced.

The Penguins then fed off the energy that oozed from the crowd, dominating the Flyers during the first 20 minutes. Only a couple of hit posts by Tyler Kennedy and Paul Martin, and some spectacular goaltending by Flyers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky prevented the Penguins from striking first.

“(Bobrovsky) played great in the first period and did a great job of keeping them in there,” Kennedy said. “He proved that he’s going to be a good goaltender.”

Bobrovsky’s acrobatics in goal, which included two great saves on quality scoring chances in the slot by Mike Comrie, allowed the Flyers to tally twice in the second period on a power-play marker by Danny Briere and an even-strength goal by Blair Betts.

But all was not lost for the home team as Kennedy gave the black-and-gold faithful its first reason to leave its feet in the new building by taking a Martin feed at the bottom of the far circle and burying a wrist shot into the top shelf behind Bobrovsky.

“Martin made a great play throwing it over,” Kennedy said. “I had an open net there and I was just able to throw it into the cage.”

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Unfortunately the Penguins weren’t able to ride the momentum from Kennedy’s goal as Claude Giroux notched the game-winning shorthanded goal 4:11 minutes later. Alex Goligoski rounded out the scoring for the Penguins when he tallied on a deflection 19 seconds after Giroux’s goal.

Despite the disappointing final outcome, newcomer Zbynek Michalek said it was good to get the first game behind the Penguins, and that the team will be ready to pick up the first-ever win at CONSOL Energy Center when the Montreal Canadiens visit on Saturday night.

“Obviously we would like to have two points in the bag, but that didn’t happen,” Michalek said. “There are a lot of games left for us to improve. Saturday is another game and another chance at two points.”

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