“IT’S A HOCKEY NIGHT IN PITTSBURGH!”
And indeed it was as the Pens took to the ice for the 2011-2012 home opener at the Consol Energy Center this evening. In spite of the on-ice absence of captain Sidney Crosby, assistant captain Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Brooks Orpik (who also wears the “A”), the Pens played to a sold out home crowd for the first time this season, coming off of a three game road trip in Western Canada where they earned five out of a possible six points.
The first goal tonight would come courtesy of Pascal Dupuis after fifteen minutes of play that saw a number of missed opportunities, a few penalties and a lot of ice carving. After planting himself in front of the net and firing off a shot, Dupuis would collect his own rebound as three Panthers moved in on him and stuff it past Florida goal tender Jose Theodore. Dupuis goal was his first of the year, and, subsequently (and evidently) the first Penguins home game goal. The Panthers would almost tie the game up just two minutes later. Florida’s Stephen Weiss would send a backhander toward Pens net-minder Marc-Andre Fleury that would bounce off of Fleury’s head. Fleury would fall backward in his attempt to freeze the puck and following a “Matrix-like” move that saw him wrap his wrist around another players hockey stick, ultimately making the save. He’d be backed up by team mates Ben Lovejoy and Chris Kunitz, both of whom dove down into the crease in an attempt to block the blue line. At the end of the first twenty, with the shots being 12 a piece, the Pens would head to the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
On to the second, where it would take almost twelve minutes of a lot of back-and-forth by both teams before a puck
found the netting. It would be Matt Cooke with his third of the season bringing the Pens to a short-lived 2-0 lead. Cooke would go charging to the net after picking up a backhanded pass from team mate Joe Vitale who earned his second point of the night with his assist. The Panthers, however, would strike back less than thirty seconds later as Marcel Goc lifted a rebound over Fleury. With six minutes remaining in the first forty, Matt Cooke would be called for interference but the one-man advantage to the Panthers would turn to a disadvantage as veteran Richard Park would score his first goal of the season (and a short-handed one at that) bringing the Penguins to a 3-1 lead. The period would end with five seconds remaining on a cross-checking penalty to Jordan Staal.
It would be the Panthers bringing the game to within a single goal just three minutes into the period courtesy of a goal
from Tomas Fleischmann. However, it would appear that the Pens did not take that too well and would strike with their fourth of the night, courtesy of James Neal who received a pass from Jordan Staal and went crashing toward Theodore. Theodore would be pulled from the net with 1:39 left of regulation in favour of the sixth attacker while the Pens were down one man as a result of a hooking call against Arron Asham, but the advantage would not play out in terms of scoring. After exhibiting some supreme penalty killing and a few chances for that final empty netter, the Pens would take their home opener 4 to 2, thus ending the home opener with the W and there sixth and seventh points of the season.
Kris Letang (surprise, surprise) led all skaters with 25:48 of ice time, Paul Martin trailed with 22:43. Steve Sullivan fired four shots in the direction of Jose Theodore while Matt Niskanen and Richard Park each banked three. Pascal Dupuis and Joe Vitale each earned two points; Dupuis with a goal and an assist and Vitale with two assists.
The Penguins will take to the ice again on Thursday when the Great 8 and the Washington Capitals roll into town. Puck drop is at 7pm.
1. Pascal Dupuis
2. Joe Vitale
3. Richard Park