4 - 3 Final - 2OT
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Pens begin season by beating Canucks in shootout

Oct 7, 2011 - 6:28 AM
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - Kris Letang scored the winner in the shootout as the Pittsburgh Penguins opened the season with a 4-3 win over the reigning Western Conference-champion Vancouver Canucks.

With Pittsburgh's first shot, Letang skated in and lifted a backhander over Roberto Luongo. After Marc-Andre Fleury stopped Alex Burrows backhander with the glove. Evgeni Malkin sealed the win when he waited out Luongo and from the left side buried the puck into the open net.

Matt Cooke scored twice while James Neal had the other goal in regulation for the Penguins, who finished last season fourth in the Eastern Conference with 106 points, but were defeated in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening round of the playoffs.

Fleury stopped 33 shots and both shooters he faced in the shootout.

"It wasn't perfect for us but we battled through and got the two points. That's most important," Cooke said about the win.

Absent from the Pittsburgh lineup was superstar Sidney Crosby, who has not played since January due to a concussion and opens the season on injured reserve as his return date is still up in the air. He did travel with the team, but is not likely to play on the swing.

Daniel Sedin, Keith Ballard and Maxim Lapierre all scored goals for the Canucks, who went to the Stanley Cup finals last season, but lost a Game 7 at home to the Boston Bruins.

Luongo, a Vezina finalist last season, made 25 stops and allowed both shooters to score in the shootout.

The Penguins power play, which struggled to a 25th-place finish last season, scored twice in the first period to give the team the lead.

Malkin snapped a backhand pass from the deep right boards to the right side of the net where Neal's sharp angle shot snuck past Luongo just 5:04 in.

"Obviously, that's not the type of goal you want to be giving up early on in the game," Luongo said.

Later in the frame and again on the man advantage, Pascal Dupuis, behind the goal with his back to the net, sent a quick backhand pass to the left side and Cooke redirected it in at the 12:30 mark.

Vancouver, though, was able to cut into its deficit less than four minutes later on a fluke goal. Lapierre had the puck along the deep right boards and sent the disc on net. It popped behind Fleury and was knocked in by the goaltender when he swept it in with his right leg pad as he blindly tried to cover it up.

Skating shorthanded, the Pens took a 3-1 lead when Cooke flew down the right wing and used the defender as a screen to bury a wrist shot past the stick- side of Luongo at the 3:09 mark of the second.

The Canucks, though, made it a one-goal game with 2:13 left in the second period as a slick pass from Henrik Sedin in the high slot over to the left wing hit a flying Ballard, who used a top-shelf wrister to get it past Fleury.

The Canucks tied the game 7:51 into the third period. On a delayed penalty call, Henrik Sedin sent a chip pass from the right boards over to the slot for his brother, who wristed a soft shot through a screen that beat Fleury to the glove side.

Game Notes

Pittsburgh won the only meeting between these clubs last season, a 3-1 victory in Pittsburgh on November 17...The Penguins continue their three-game western Canadian road trip to open the season in Calgary on Saturday...Vancouver next plays on Monday in Columbus...Pittsburgh went 2-for-3 on the power play while the Canucks were 0-for-3...Letang had two assists.