After nine months, one lockout, and only days of training camp, fans packed the arena to celebrate the Flyers’ return.
They’ll have to wait longer to enjoy a win.
The Penguins shut out the noise and the hype and shut down the Flyers, enjoying a fast start to an abbreviated season.
Tyler Kennedy and James Neal scored goals 2:40 apart and Chris Kunitz added an empty-netter in the final seconds to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on Saturday.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots and earned his record 227th career win with the Penguins.
“Well, it’s been a long time since we played, but I think the energy is there,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “There are a lot of guys in here who are comfortable with each other and I think that will help in the early going.”
Flyers fans were in playoff form, starting with the booming, derogatory chants at Crosby from the moment the Penguins captain took the ice.
Crosby was held without a point in the first game for both teams since the end of the 113-day lockout, but just seeing a healthy No. 87 on the ice gives the Penguins hope big things are ahead this season.
“This is a tough place to play, for sure,” Crosby said. “We saw exactly what we expected out there, tough crowd, tough team, but it’s a good experience for us, and we’ll take it.”
One of the NHL’s top rivalries kicked off the 48-game 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 straight games.
This win was a first step toward putting that postseason disappointment behind them.
“Not all of it, but yes, this feels a lot better,” Fleury said. “We feel good about how things went, and we hope that we can build some confidence off this and really get going.”
Both teams get right back at it: Pittsburgh is on the road to play the New York Rangers and the Flyers are at Buffalo, both on Sunday.
Philadelphia again proved it was immune to any lockout backlash: The crowd of 19,994 was the largest regular-season total in Flyers’ history.
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.