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game recap

Penguins 4, Flyers 0

Tuesday, 06.19.2012 / 2:19 AM

Associated Press

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Penguins 4, Flyers 0
Philadelphia Flyers 0, Pittsburgh Penguins 4

PITTSBURGH (AP) -The No. 1 draft pick was all he was supposed to be for the Pittsburgh Penguins in a dominating performance that gave promise this season won't be like all those bad ones gone by.

Only this time it wasn't Sidney Crosby, but goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury, the top pick in 2003 who didn't win the starting job until the final preseason game, turned aside 40 shots and the Penguins played one of their best games in years before their prospective new owner by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Crosby, coming off his 102-point rookie season, scored a goal and third-line forwards Michel Ouellet and Jarkko Ruttu set up each other less than three minutes apart in the first period to give the surprisingly good Penguins the early lead and some momentum.

Leading the cheers was Jim Balsillie, a Canadian businessman who signed a sales agreement for the estimated $175 million purchase from Mario Lemieux's ownership group hours before the opening faceoff. The league still must ratify the sale.

The Penguins not only got a goal from an unexpected source - defenseman Josef Melichar, who had only three last season - they overcame a 40-21 Flyers shots advantage. They also killed off two Philadelphia two-man advantages in the first two periods behind Fleury, who came into the game with a 17-41-2-6 career record and a spotty preseason in which he nearly lost his job to Jocelyn Thibault.

"He played awesome," said forward Colby Armstrong, who set the tone by holding his own in a fight with much-larger defenseman Nolan Baumgartner. "To get off to a good start is huge. We showed a lot of emotion, took good shots, had some big hits and made some big saves. We were coming hard all night."

The Flyers were 0-for-10 on the power play, and star Peter Forsberg - coming off an ankle injury - did not take a shot in 16 1/2 minutes of playing time.

"I think they're a better team this year," Forsberg said. "It will a tough battle every time we play them."

Fleury said seeing so many shots wasn't a problem "because it keeps me focused. I don't mind it - as long as we win."

Playing on the first anniversary of Crosby's long-awaited NHL debut, a dismally played 5-1 loss in New Jersey that started them on a season-opening nine-game losing streak, the Penguins unexpectedly took the play to the Flyers. Philadelphia won six of eight from them last season.

"It was a hard game, a very physical game they made it very difficult for us," Flyers forward Mike Knuble said. "The team kind of fed off him. He made some big saves and it carried through their team."

Pittsburgh scored on four of its first 11 shots against Robert Esche, a performance more reminiscent of the Lemieux-Jaromir Jagr days than those during the franchise's four consecutive last-place division finishes since 2003. The Penguins frequently outskated the Flyers to the puck, fed off a succession of excellent saves by Fleury and a strong game by the Ouellet-Dominic Moore-Ruutu line.

Moore and Ruutu were among new general manager Ray Shero's off-season pickups - not big-name players but ones he felt would fit in well with a fast-skating, youthful team that will have four players 20 or younger when Russian star Evgeni Malkin recovers from his dislocated left shoulder.

The Penguins played three teenagers - an almost unheard of occurrence in a major team sport - with first-round pick Jordan Staal, who just turned 18, and 19-year-old defenseman Kris Letang making their NHL debuts.

No wonder the Flyers didn't see this coming. The game got away from them quickly when Ouellet powered a shot from the top of the right circle beyond Esche slightly more than four minutes into the game.

Ouellet then set up Ruutu less than three minutes later for a tap-in that made it 2-0. The big lift provided by that lead clearly gave a boost to a Penguins team whose 22 victories last season were the fewest for the franchise since the 1983-84 team won only 16, giving them the chance to draft Lemieux.

"Last year doesn't mean anything now," Crosby said. "It's an opportunity to start fresh. It's hard to compare, but we came out prepared to play the best we can."

Crosby made it 3-0 early in the second period, beating Esche inside the near post from below the left circle.

Lemieux's No. 66 jersey banner was raised again to the Mellon Arena ceiling before the game, nine months after the Hall of Fame center retired for the second time.

Notes: Crosby has eight goals in nine career games against Philadelphia. ... Fleury's shutout was his second; he won a 1-0 decision against Chicago in the first month of his rookie season. ... The Penguins had lost six consecutive openers, last winning in 1999 against the Islanders.

scoring summary
1st Period
06:46
PIT
Michel Ouellet (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Jarkko Ruutu (1)
1 - 0 PIT
09:34
PIT
Jarkko Ruutu (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Michel Ouellet (1), Dominic Moore (1)
2 - 0 PIT
2nd Period
01:57
PIT
Sidney Crosby (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Nisse Ekman (1), Rob Scuderi (1)
3 - 0 PIT
17:06
PIT
Josef Melichar (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Sidney Crosby (1), Colby Armstrong (1)
4 - 0 PIT
3rd Period
NONE
penalty summary
1st Period
04:07
PHI
Kyle Calder  Holding against  Sidney Crosby
11:38
PIT
Mark Recchi  Slashing against  Mike Knuble
14:11
PIT
Mark Recchi  Hooking against  Randy Robitaille
15:37
PIT
Colby Armstrong  Hi-sticking against  Petr Nedved
15:37
PIT
Colby Armstrong  Hi-sticking against  Petr Nedved
2nd Period
04:42
PHI
Nolan Baumgartner  Instigator against  Colby Armstrong
04:42
PHI
Nolan Baumgartner  Fighting (maj) against  Colby Armstrong
04:42
PHI
Nolan Baumgartner  Misconduct (10 min)
04:42
PIT
Colby Armstrong  Fighting (maj) against  Nolan Baumgartner
05:58
PHI
Simon Gagne  Boarding against  Sergei Gonchar
08:56
PIT
Sergei Gonchar  Hooking against  Simon Gagne
09:39
PIT
Jarkko Ruutu  Diving against  Joni Pitkanen
13:09
PHI
Peter Forsberg  Cross checking against  Sidney Crosby
13:09
PIT
Nisse Ekman  Interference on goalkeeper against  Antero Niittymaki
13:09
PIT
Sidney Crosby  Slashing against  Peter Forsberg
3rd Period
02:58
PIT
Andre Roy  Holding against  Derian Hatcher
04:39
PHI
Nolan Baumgartner  Interference against  Rob Scuderi
09:55
PIT
Ryan Whitney  Roughing
12:16
PIT
Chris Thorburn  Interference against  Boyd Kane
goalie stats
Robert Esche
Robert Esche
SA: 21TOI: 59:56
Saves: 17EV: 12 - 16
PIM: 0PP: 4 - 4
SV%: .810SH: 1 - 1
Marc-Andre Fleury
SA: 40TOI: 59:54
Saves: 40EV: 24 - 24
PIM: 0PP: 14 - 14
SV%: 1.000SH: 2 - 2