It is clear how much Pittsburgh fans have missed hockey, as a standing room crowd came to cheer on the Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center in a 5-4 victory from team Black in an intrasquad scrimmage.
It was an electric atmosphere as fans poured in the usual “Let’s go Pens” chants, and in the third period even did waves as well as a “Flyers suck” chant in preparation for the opening matchup on Saturday. The fans treated the game as though it was being played during the regular season.
The first fan, 21-year-old Jeremy Banachoski, got in line at 10 a.m. – a full eight hours before the gates would open.
“I’ve been waiting for eight months to get to see them play again,” Banachoski said to Brooks Bratten of the Pittsburgh Penguins website. “I think it’s a great thing that (the Penguins) are letting all the fans come in for free today and see them play.”
Linesmen Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy scored three goals together, and they will join Brandon Sutter on the third line. Sutter had a goal in the shootout.
Just 21 seconds into the game, Sutter found Cooke and it was the Black team that struck first.
Beau Bennett then evened the score with a sneaky shot that got past Marc-Andre Fleury, the Black team goalie. The White team would then lead on a Chris Kunitz goal. The play involved a puck Fleury appeared to have, but with no whistle, both teams battled and Kunitz came out on top.
In the second period, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma used one of the various scenarios at his disposal, a four-on-four. Kris Letang opened the scoring for a 3-1 White lead but Cooke replied with help again from Sutter to make it 3-2.
Tyler Kennedy tied the game with a no-look shot that found a way past White goalie Tomas Vokoun.
In the third period, Bylsma called for five-on-threes and Evgeni Malkin took a shot that went past the screened Fleury, putting White back on top.
The score held through the end of regulation and while that normally would mean the game was over, both a five-minute overtime period and a five-man shootout were already planned.
In the overtime, the score would be tied at 4 once again when Brandon Sutter used quick hands around the net to get a goal.
The shootout was the Fleury show as he turned away James Neal, Malkin and Sidney Crosby while Vokoun allowed two goals, including a Jayson Megna score that wowed fans.
The fans were voted as the No. 1 star of the game and the players all gathered at center ice to raise their sticks – a salute of appreciation.
The Penguins will open the season at Philadelphia at 3 p.m. Saturday.