Power play fails Penguins in 3-2 loss to Flyers

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The Penguins knew this was going to be a night of firsts at Consol Energy Center and, frankly, they thought that was pretty cool.

First game of a new season. First one in their new arena. First chance to renew hostilities with a bitter rival.

But there were a few other firsts -- ones they didn't anticipate, and certainly didn't enjoy -- that will be the enduring legacy of this evening.

For not only did Philadelphia goalie Sergei Bobrovsky make his first start in the NHL, he recorded his first victory. And, in the process, earned his first No. 1 star by rejecting 29 shots in the Flyers' 3-2 win.

So while the Penguins' book on Bobrovsky before Thursday evening was more like a leaflet -- "To be honest, I'd never even heard his name," defenseman Zbynek Michalek said -- they're now a little more aware of his abilities than they might care to be.

Indeed, while it's a little early to suggest that Bobrovsky is the Russian word for Vezina, Bobrovsky certainly validated coach Peter Laviolette's decision to start him ahead of veteran Brian Boucher.

"He found a way to keep it out of the net," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

If NHL tradition called for inanimate objects to be honored after each game, the goalposts that flanked Bobrovsky surely were worthy of recognition, because they stopped nearly as many shots as he did.

But whether that was because the Penguins' aim was errant or because Bobrovsky simply didn't give them any net to hit doesn't much matter on the scoreboard, even though the Penguins seemed to take some consolation in all those near-misses.

"If you hit the post, it's like 50-50," right winger Tyler Kennedy said. "If you hit the post, it's a good shot, because it's that much closer to going in. Sometimes they go post and in, sometimes they don't."

Bobrovsky, speaking through a translator, said that his performance "wasn't anything extraordinary," and that he hadn't been nervous before the game.

That's easy to believe, because he was poised throughout it, even when the Penguins were swirling around his net.

"I was just following the game, making sure I stopped every shot," Bobrovsky said.

The distinction of scoring the first regular-season goal in Consol Energy Center history went to Flyers forward Daniel Briere, who set up near the bottom of the right circle and steered a Mike Richards feed by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on a power play at 2:51 of the second, and Blair Betts expanded the Flyers' comfort zone at 17:15 by converting a James van Riemsdyk rebound.

Kennedy, whose job security was the subject of considerable discussion going into training camp, notched a place in franchise history 44 seconds into the third, when he became the first Penguin to ring up a goal in Consol Energy Center.

Kennedy threw a shot past Bobrovsky from the bottom of the left circle to slice the Flyers' edge to 2-1. Paul Martin and Kris Letang picked up the assists.

Unfortunately for Letang, his role in Kennedy's goal was overshadowed by a gaffe that led to what became the winner. He had skipped the morning skate because of illness and probably felt even more queasy after his giveaway led to a short-handed goal for the Flyers at 4:55.

Letang, who was trying to make a soft pass to Martin, had it picked off by Claude Giroux. He knocked it past Martin and broke in on Fleury before throwing some moves at him -- and a shot past him -- to restore Philadelphia's two-goal advantage.

Just 14 seconds later -- and one second before a roughing minor to Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros was to expire -- Alex Goligoski deflected a Michalek shot behind Bobrovsky to hoist the Penguins to within one again.

They couldn't generate the one that would have forced overtime, however, and the standing-room crowd of 18,289 -- 202 above the seating capacity -- became witnesses to, among other things, the Penguins' first home-ice loss in the new building.

Not how they hoped the first chapter in Consol Energy Center's history would play out, of course, but not exactly a lethal blow to the Penguins' chances of a successful season.

"Obviously, we'd like to have two points in the bank, but it didn't happen," Michalek said. "There are still a lot of games left, and we can improve."

For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com . First Published October 8, 2010 4:00 AM


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