The Pittsburgh Penguins — and more importantly Marc-Andre Fleury — got off to a great start to the 2013-14 campaign by shutting out the New Jersey Devils in their home opener Thursday.
Stopping all 28 shots he saw come his way, Fleury looked solid for Pittsburgh in net, and with the victory he collected his 250th career NHL win.
Receiving a lot of flack for his back-to-back poor postseason performances, the ‘Flower’ got off to a great and crucial start to the season, considering the team will be relying on him with backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun sidelined three-to-six months.
The organization knows how vital it is for Fleury to get off on the right foot — so much that even Pens’ owner Mario Lemieux took the time to congratulate him following the game, according to a tweet made by Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Coolest things I saw tonight: Mario going out of his way to congratulate Fleury, and E.J. giving a fist pump at moment shutout was complete.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) October 4, 2013
Fleury surely didn’t disappoint.
Another player who got things going was newly-signed forward Chuck Kobasew, who opened the scoring with a blistering wrist shot off a botched attempt to control a rebound by New Jersey goaltender Cory Schneider.
While forward Matt D’Agostini is out long-term with an upper-body injury, Kobasew has the opportunity to impress Pittsburgh enough to potentially keep him on the third-line permanently.
You can’t go a game without talking about captain Sidney Crosby, right?
Just missing out on a couple empty-net chances, the star center tallied the Pens second goal of the game when he beat Schneider on a two-on-one breakaway, a little over midway through the first-period.
Crosby seemed to be in rare form last night, and while some may suggest he might be a little timid due to his horrific jaw-break last season, he quickly showed the critics he’s as healthy as ever.
Oddly enough, the goal turned out to be his 666th career point, and it came against the Devils.
One person who wasn’t so injury-free was forward James Neal.
Neal, who was listed as a game-time decision after he missed Wednesday’s practice and Thursday’s morning skate, played only 3:49 minutes before leaving the contest late in the first-period.
What is being described as a lingering upper-body injury, head coach Dan Bylsma said after the game that his departure was more towards the fact that they didn’t want him to aggravate it.
His status for Saturday’s home game against Buffalo is now questionable.
Defensive prospect Olli Maatta skated in his first NHL game last night, becoming the first 19-year-old to debut for Pittsburgh since Kris Letang did it back in 2006 — who is also the reason he was able to.
Maatta looked a little nervous at the beginning of the contest, however, was able to steadily come along throughout the match, contributing solid defense throughout the game.
Although nothing is being confirmed towards him starting in Saturday’s game, there’s a good chance he’ll play, considering they only have little time to evaluate him till Letang becomes available.
Overall, a terrific start for the Pens, after yet another devastating playoff ouster.
They play the Buffalo Sabres in the CONSOL Energy Center, Saturday, at 7 p.m.