Star power not enough

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:32 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Sid and Mario and Christina Aguilera were in concert last night at the Mellon Arena as the Pittsburgh Penguins played their home opener.

Shorthand description: Not a timid note struck.

Crosby, the 18-year-old whizkid from Cole Harbour, N.S., scored his first NHL goal and added two dazzling assists.

Lemieux, the 40-year-old wheez-kid from Montreal scored twice and demonstrated that maybe, he has got a little left. Like say 40 goals and 80 points if his body holds up.

By the way, the Boston Bruins beat the Penguins 7-6 in overtime on a goal by Glen Murray. Little matter.

Last night the Penguins flashed their bodacious gifts in a way that would make the often rambunctious Ms. Aguilera, a Pittsburgh native and the night's anthem singer, very proud indeed.

Crosby's first NHL goal came with 1:28 to play in the middle period. During a scramble in front of the Boston goal Mark Recchi nudged a four-foot pass toward the kid. Crosby, who attracted well-intentioned but ineffectual checking all nightmerely had to put a forehand past Boston backup goalie Hannu Toivone

"I was really happy," Crosby said. "It was great to score but it was just too bad we didn't win. It's nice to score and set up goals but I play to win."

Crosby did a little bunny-hop in the corner and was mobbed by his linemates.

"It was great. He played great," Lemieux said. "The first goal is always the toughest."

The sellout crowd responded with a loud, sustained ovation and chants of "Sidney, Sidney" and "Crosby, Crosby." The Penguins, meanwhile, were catapulted out of their seats on the bench. Of this, there will be more.

Crosby had earlier brought the fans to their feet in the opening seconds of the second period when he peeled down the wing and absolutely abused Boston defenceman Hal Gill with an inside-outside-you-can-pick-your- jock-up-at-customer-service move and then feathered a pass to a wide open Brooks Orpik. The pass was the kind of wholly undeserved chance that Lemieux regularly dealt in, the kind that financed several houses for Larry Murphy.

In the first period, a similar burst of speed allowed Crosby to find former Maple Leaf Ric Jackman uncovered for a goal.

"The two passes he made were as good as it gets," Pens coach Ed Olczyk said.

And what of Lemieux, who looked ordinary in going pointless in the first two games? A newly minted 40-year-old, Lemieux is coming off hip surgery and has looked human as the Penguins were hammered in New Jersey and beaten in overtime in Carolina. Only for the greats is mortality an insult but it seemed reasonable to wonder how much Lemieux had left.

Not to worry. Lemieux lifted the Pens into a 2-1 lead on a superb play in the first. A rifle-shot rebound found Lemieux's stick 12 minutes in. Whereas few players could have corralled it, Lemieux deadened the puck and then rifled it high past poor Toivonen. His second goal tied things at 4-4.

And so Sidney Crosby has scored an NHL goal. He may already be his team's best player and there was a buzz about him whenever he touched the puck.

For the cameras, Crosby was lamenting the result but what matters is what is best remembered. And Lemieux and Crosby delivered.

"I'm sure he'll never forget it," Olczyk said of Crosby's goal. "You never forget your first goal."


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