Bobrovsky's play needs no translation as Flyers beat Penguins
PITTSBURGH - One night after Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter in his postseason debut, Sergei Bobrovsky did his best to match him.
Bobrovsky, unearthed from Russia, flirted with perfection in his own debut last night, holding the Pittsburgh Penguins scoreless through two periods. Bobrovsky skated off the ice leaving the Flyers wondering if they have finally found a goaltender.
Bobrovsky bailed out the Flyers in the first period and, despite allowing two third-period goals, stopped 29 of 31 shots to carry the team to an impressive, 3-2 opening-night victory.
As the youngest goaltender to start a season opener in Flyers history, the 22-year-old Bobrovsky seemingly was not fazed by anything. He wasn't rattled by the grand opening of the palatial Consol Energy Arena, a deep-rooted and hate-filled Flyers and Penguins rivalry, or even facing two of the purest goal scorers in Sidney Crosby and fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin.
"I wasn't too nervous, I was ready for this," Bobrovsky said with the help of translator Alex Gluhovsky. "At times, I had to make saves. At times, other guys had to make plays. But it was a whole team effort. It wasn't anything too out of the ordinary.
"It doesn't really matter to me if it's a rivalry or not. It doesn't really matter who we play. It's a game you have to come out and win."
Bobrovsky did just that, becoming the first Flyers goalie to win his NHL debut since Antero Niittymaki did it in 2004.
Last year, the Flyers rode newcomer Ray Emery to a 2-0 shutout on opening night in Carolina. Emery only ended up making 29 starts before being sidelined with a season-ending hip surgery.
Bobrovsky was perhaps the most impressive at the beginning - surviving a Penguins onslaught during the opening 10 minutes that included a timeout by coach Peter Laviolette and at least four defensive-zone turnovers - and at the end of the game, when the Penguins finished the final 74 seconds with a man advantage.
"I thought he played a really good game," Laviolette said. "In the first period, he played really strong and we played sloppy. We turned the puck over far too many times in the defensive zone and in the neutral zone. He made save after save in the first period."
Laviolette's timeout - and subsequent tongue-lashing during the first period - settled the Flyers and allowed them time to regroup, playing without top defenseman Chris Pronger.
"Early on there, it could have easily been 2 or 3-0," defenseman Matt Carle said. "He really stood on his head. He was ready to play. Once we got our legs under us, we got some ugly goals and started created chances."
Danny Briere etched his name into the blank Consol Energy Arena record books by notching the game's first goal, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead on the power play 2:51 into the second period.
Blair Betts chipped in to make it 2-0 less than 15 minutes later.
Then, as the quiet building started to whisper the word shutout, Tyler Kennedy beat Bobrovsky 44 seconds into the third period with a shot parallel with the goal line. A similar, strange-angle shot - something Bobrovsky has been working on - beat him in a rookie scrimmage less than a month ago in Washington.
Last night, Bobrovsky was a world away from that rookie game.
"Guys are more focused on shooting the puck and attacking the puck," Bobrovsky said of the difference between the preseason and regular season. "There is a difference. I wasn't too surprised. I prepared all preseason. I worked hard all offseason to not sit [on the bench]."
"I remember in camp, me and Danny [Briere] were thinking 'Who is this kid?' " Giroux said of Bobrovsky. "We couldn't score on him. All preseason, he played well, so it didn't surprise me. We're all happy for him."
Alex Goligoski's bouncing power-play goal 19 seconds later cut the difference to one.
In the waning seconds, with the puck dancing on Crosby's stick at the blue line and the first win of the season hanging in the balance, Bobrovsky was the difference with ice in his veins.
"It didn't matter to me whether it was Malkin or Crosby," Bobrovsky said, smiling. "I just needed to stop the shot."
Claude Giroux got postgame X-rays, after getting hit with a shot during the game. Giroux was visibly favoring an ankle after speaking with reporters. General manager Paul Holmgren said it was "nothing," without even seeing the results, and that Giroux will be ready for tomorrow night's game in St. Louis . . . The Flyers have opened eight buildings in their franchise history, including the Spectrum and the Wells Fargo Center, posting a 4-3-1 record.
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