The kid is alright

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Sidney Crosby couldn't do much last night against Martin Brodeur.

Neither of course, could any of his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates.

Instead, it was the far-less heralded Zach Parise who garnered his first career marker as the Devils downed the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1.

Parise, the 17th overall choice in the 2003 draft, is 21 and a fast, keener rookie. That will be a subplot of the season for Crosby who will compete against players three or four years older.

Crosby is going to be a great player but frequently last night, the puck did not find him. He doesn't yet know where to find it or at least he didn't last night.

HAD CHANCES

The opening night of the most heralded rookie since Eric Lindros broke into the league produced a boatload of chances, mostly for the Penguins, who incurred four consecutive man advantages and peppered Brodeur with 17 first-period shots. In the end, the Penguins enjoyed 11 power plays. The Devils were accorded seven.

One of those power-play chances went to the Crosby, who garnered a puck in the corner and dashed to the front of the net before Brodeur snuffed his shot dead.

Brodeur, coming off two straight Vezinas, again bested Crosby in the second when he stopped a close-in shot. Same thing in the third when Crosby veered in on Brodeur and watched the Devils star goalie deflect the shot away.

Sergei Brylin and Brian Gionta scored twice for the Devils.

It was a forgettable debut for Crosby, who started with Mark Recchi and John LeClair but saw one shift of power-play time with Lemieux and Ryan Malone.

The new reality in the NHL is very similar to the old one. Great goaltending, and there is none greater than Brodeur, trumps any local story line.

The game was terrific, even if the Crosby angle wasn't. There was plenty of skating and skill. Brian Gionta stripped Pittsburgh defenceman Rob Scuderi was stripped of the puck by Gionta who dashed in and beat Pittsburgh goalie Jocelyn Thibault on his second try. Gionta scored his second just four minutes into the third as his wobbler eluded the flustered Thibault. Gionta, just 5-foot-7, is precisely the kind of player who figures to benefit from the the league's new enforcement policies.

So, you should know, is Crosby.

"The flow is pretty good" said Penguins captain Mario Lemieux, "but Marty played great."

Crosby got his first point in the 15th minute when he scooped up a loose puck and delivered a fine goalmouth pass that allowed Mark Recchi to finally beat Brodeur.

The Penguins have yards to go and looked like what they are: a composite of players from other teams, John LeClair and Mark Recchi from Philadelphia, Sergei Gonchar from Washington and Boston.

Lemieux scored on his first shift in his first game. It can be said, for one night at least, that Sidney Crosby is no Mario Lemieux.

He is, however, built for the long haul.

"I'm proud that he remains pretty down to earth," his father Troy was saying. "He knows where he came from and his doesn't forget it."

And there is another game, Friday in Carolina against the Hurricanes.

He promised the opening night would be about lowered, not heightened, expectations.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself. Short steps, short goals. I just want to start well."

He started not bad. The question of course, is how will he finish.


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