Canadiens gets first, last wins at Mellon Arena


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An interesting bookend, you could call it, once you get past the abruptness of the ending.

Montreal was the Penguins' first opponent at Mellon Arena. That was a 2-1 Canadiens win Oct. 11, 1967, after the Penguins were one of six expansion teams to join the NHL that season.

Montreal was a storied Original Six club, still known as the Flying Frenchmen.

"I had asked the league to schedule the Canadiens for a purpose -- I thought they might have an off night playing an expansion team," Jack Riley, the original general manager of the Penguins, recalled last month when the team celebrated the final regular-season game at Mellon Arena.

Wednesday night, more than 42 years later, Montreal was back at Mellon Arena for Game 7 of a second-round playoff series against the Penguins. The Canadiens, eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, won Game 7, 5-2, to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions -- and become the Penguins' last opponent at Mellon Arena.

Next season, the Penguins will move across the street to the sparkling Consol Energy Center. The fate of Mellon Arena remains undetermined.

Memories of Mellon Arena were difficult for the Penguins to come up with in the quiet moments after their season ended, but they came away with a lasting impression of the fans on this last night.

"The way that they responded [when we were] down, 4-0, was pretty incredible," Penguins captain and center Sidney Crosby said. "I think we can all say thank you for that and appreciate it. That's the loudest I've ever heard it.

"It's not the way we wanted to finish here, but they should be proud in the way that they supported us."

Penguins winger Bill Guerin, 39, was at Mellon Arena many times as an opponent.

"A lot of great memories here," he said. "This is a great building. Always has been.

"I feel pretty lucky to have played here."

So that was the final game at Mellon Arena. The final crowd was 17,132, a standing-room sellout. It was the Penguins' 165th consecutive sellout.

Here are some of the lasts in the building:

The last goal: Montreal's Brian Gionta, on a power play, at 10:00 of the third period.

The last shot: A desperation slap shot from the neutral zone by the Penguins' Pascal Dupuis.

The last save: Montreal's Jaroslav Halak on Dupuis.

The last goaltender of record: Marc-Andre Fleury, who got tagged with the loss for the Penguins. The last Penguins goaltender in net, though, was Brent Johnson, after Fleury got pulled in the second period.

Last three stars: 1. Halak; 2. Montreal winger Brian Gionta; 3. Montreal winger Mike Cammalleri.

Last player off the ice after the Penguins saluted their fans: Crosby.

The Penguins won three Stanley Cups at Mellon Arena, but they also had a lot of lean years. That's what was running through Guerin's mind when the team saluted the fans.

"They've been through thick and thin in this building, and they deserve a nice new, one -- and that's what they're going to get, so we're looking forward to it," he said.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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