Penguins take opener from Flyers

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 19, 2013
Tyler Kennedy and James Neal scored goals to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on Saturday. Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers in the first game for both teams since the end of the 113-day NHL lockout. Chris Kunitz added an empty-netter in the final seconds for the Penguins. About 20,000 fans filled the Wells Fargo Center and they were welcomed back and thanked by the team in videotaped messages throughout the game. The rivalry started early in this abbreviated season. The Flyers eliminated the Penguins in six games last season in an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series. Counting the 2012 regular-season finale, the Penguins have played the Flyers eight consecutive games. Flyers fans were in playoff form, starting with the booming, derogatory chants at Sidney Crosby from the moment the Penguins captain took the ice. Crosby was held without a point in the opener, but just seeing a healthy No. 87 on the ice gives the Penguins hope big things are ahead this season. Philadelphia again proved it was immune to any lockout backlash. Fans filled the parking lots to tailgate hours before faceoff and almost everyone was in some sort of team gear -- and that was before they all received a free T-shirt as they entered the Wells Fargo Center. More than 2,000 fans packed the Flyers' practice facility for the first day of camp and another 15,000 showed up for a free, open practice on Thursday. The Flyers sold more than 17,000 season-ticket packages this season and every seat was full for pregame introductions. The Flyers aired a video tribute to their fans. Players, local dignitaries such as former Gov. Ed Rendell, and even a Ben Franklin impersonator all welcomed back fans and thanked them for sticking with the Flyers over the three-month lockout. Flyers chairman Ed Snider told the fans on video, "We're going to win a Cup for you this year." One by one, the Flyers skated out, ending with Giroux's official introduction as the 19th captain in franchise history. The lights came on, a sold-out crowd was delirious with nine months of pent up exuberance, the arena was electric and ... Bam. Down 2-0 just in a flash. The Penguins shut out the noise and the hype and pounced for two fast goals. Paul Martin's slap shot off a faceoff deflected off Kennedy's stick and past Ilya Bryzgalov for the power-play goal. Neal, who scored 40 goals last season, followed almost three minutes later with another quick goal off a faceoff that made it 2-0 only 7:20 into the game and shushed the fired-up crowd. There were more videotaped messages during intermission. Giroux told the Flyers diehards, "You're the best fans in the league." Giroux, the most popular Flyer, gave the fans even more reason to love him when he took an on-target pass from Scott Hartnell and slid it past Marc-Andre Fleury only 23 seconds into the second to cut it to 2-1. Bryzgalov, who played in Russia over the lockout, and Fleury settled down. The Flyers pushed hard in the final minutes on the power play, but were thwarted when Fleury dropped down and smothered shots around the crease. Notes Flyers F Danny Briere (wrist) sat out. Flyers D Andrej Meszaros played after suffering a torn right Achilles tendon in the offseason. ... Penn State was set to play Vermont in the first Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff later Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center. ... Scott Laughton, the Flyers' 2012 first-round draft pick, made his debut.
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