Published: Friday, October 6, 2006
Nice start: Pens cruise to first win
Rookie goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 40 shots against the Flyers.
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.
New owner watches
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 161/2 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.
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