Penguins open Consol Energy Center with 5-1 exhibition win
Had his father made a bid to buy the Penguins — there was interest on the part of Canadian furniture magnate Bill Comrie in 1991 — perhaps forward Mike Comrie would have scored the first goal at the Comrie Center on Wednesday night.
Instead he beat the Penguins’ franchise player, center Sidney Crosby, to the scoring punch and opened Consol Energy Center with a goal only 81 seconds into its first hockey game.
Crosby scored about six minutes later to start the Penguins’ push in a 5-1 exhibition victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
Center Ryan Craig (two) and winger Brett Sterling also scored for the Penguins, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves through two periods.
There are enough images of Crosby placed throughout the 18,087-seat arena to leave no doubt which player the Penguins consider their marquee attraction. Thus, it would be understandable if the team planned to be cautious with him over the next few days; he did not finish the game because of a sore hip flexor.
“It’s nothing,” Crosby said. “First game in a long time, and pretty intense for a preseason game; I just might have tweaked it a bit, and that’s nothing new for me this time of year.”
A first-period fight in this game resulted in the ejection of defenseman Brooks Orpik, who was issued a game misconduct after dropping the gloves against Detroit winger Todd Bertuzzi.
The Penguins are 20 days removed from signing Comrie, twice a 30-goal scorer, to a one-year contract at the league minimum ($500,000). He could find himself in a prime role when the regular season opens Oct. 7, even if Crosby is at full health.
Center Jordan Staal’s bum right foot — infected most of the summer after surgery to repair a severed tendon in May — has opened a spot on the Penguins’ No. 2 scoring line. Comrie, a winger most of the past several seasons in Edmonton, Ottawa and the New York Islanders, could fill the pivot slot on a second line expected to be occupied by Staal and forward Evgeni Malkin upon Staal’s return late in October.
Comrie said skating on a line with Malkin in this game should be viewed as a message sent by coach Dan Bylsma.
“You’ve got to rise to the occasion,” he said. “We all know what’s at stake. We’re trying to make the team and make the team better.”