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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 28 shots for his 250th NHL victory and franchise-record 24th shutout, and Sidney Crosby scored in Pittsburgh’s two-goal first period to lead the Penguins to a 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.
Chuck Kobasew and Craig Adams added goals for the Penguins, who took control early.
Kobasew and Crosby scored less than four minutes apart in the first, and Adams made it 3-0 midway through the third to celebrate his 800th career game in style.
Cory Schneider made 18 saves for the Devils. Schneider’s start marked the first time in 19 years Martin Brodeur didn’t play in the season opener for New Jersey. Brodeur is expected to start Friday at home against the New York Islanders.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for more photos from the Pens season opener!
Rather than head in a different direction after a disappointing four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals last spring, the Penguins fortified the core that has been together for five occasionally brilliant seasons.
Pittsburgh signed stars Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to long-term extensions, brought back Dupuis, and added two years to coach Dan Bylsma’s contract.
The only alterations to the roster were minor. Defenseman Rob Scuderi returned to Pittsburgh four years after helping them win the franchise’s third Stanley Cup title. Kobasew earned a spot following a solid training camp, and 19-year-old rookie Olli Maatta did enough to stick around — at least for a bit — while Letang recovers from a lower-body injury.
Kobasew wasted little time making an impact, scoring 9:26 into the season when he jammed in a rebound of Brandon Sutter’s shot.
Crosby doubled the lead a few minutes later when he and Pascal Dupuis created a two-on-one. When the New Jersey defenseman slid over to cover Dupuis, Crosby wristed a shot over Schneider’s glove.
It was all the insurance Fleury would need. The Penguins stuck with the former No. 1 pick following a second straight flameout in the playoffs, believing he and veteran Tomas Vokoun made up the best tandem in the league.
But that duo will be split up for at least three months as Vokoun recovers from blood clots discovered early in training camp. The injury leaves rookie Jeff Zatkoff as the lone backup, meaning Fleury will almost certainly be a workhorse while Vokoun recovers.
The early returns were promising. Fleury was stellar from the opening faceoff and even stopped a penalty shot by Adam Henrique late in the third period to preserve the shutout.
While the Penguins stood pat in the offseason, things are hardly as settled in New Jersey, which failed to make the playoffs last season for only the third time in 23 seasons.
David Blitzer and Joshua Harris took over as owners of the financially troubled franchise in August, and Schneider was acquired in a trade with Vancouver to take some of the workload off the 41-year-old Brodeur.
The Devils also brought in well-traveled Jaromir Jagr, taken 15 spots ahead of Brodeur in the 1990 NHL draft, four years before Maatta was born.
Playing in the newly minted Metropolitan Division, the Devils will likely have to pull a few surprises to reach the postseason. The Penguins, meanwhile, will likely only be judged on what happens in the spring.
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