The Pittsburgh Penguins stuck with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the off-season, convinced two straight playoff meltdowns have not robbed the former Stanley Cup winner of his confidence.
The early returns are promising.
Fleury stopped 28 shots for his 250th NHL victory and franchise-record 24th shutout in Pittsburgh’s 3-0 season-opening win over New Jersey on Thursday night.
It was the kind of vintage performance the Penguins expect to rely on regularly as they take aim at another championship.
“We believe in [Fleury],” star forward Sidney Crosby said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt in here. He made some great saves. We probably made him work harder than he needed to at the end, but there were some beauties.”
Crosby and newcomer Chuck Kobasew scored four minutes apart in the first period and Craig Adams scored a rare goal in the third in his 800th career game for Pittsburgh, who toned down their high-octane offense for a more disciplined approach.
The Penguins — the NHL’s highest scoring team each of the last two seasons — took just 21 shots, including nine over the final two periods.
“I love the way our team played defense,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “The penalty kill was big the two times it had to be and ... Marc made some big saves late.”
Boston opened the defense of their Eastern Conference championship with a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay, with Chris Kelly scoring on a penalty shot and Patrice Bergeron also scoring a short-handed goal.
Tuukka Rask made 32 saves for Boston, who reached the Stanley Cup finals last season for the second time in three years.
In other games, the Capitals and the Kings had shootout victories over the Flames and the Wild, the Blues and the Panthers posted 4-2 wins — over the Predators and the Stars — and the Coyotes and Sharks each had 4-1 victories over the Rangers and the Canucks.
In Washington, Alex Ovechkin had two goals and an assist, and then scored in the shootout for the Capitals, who rallied from an early three-goal deficit to beat Calgary.
Michal Neuvirth, who replaced an ineffective Braden Holtby, made 27 saves for Washington and stopping Sven Baertschi and Jiri Hudler in the shootout.
Marcus Johansson assisted on all three second-period goals for the Capitals, who earned their first win after dropping the opener to defending Stanley Cup champions Chicago on Tuesday.
Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter scored shootout goals for Los Angeles, who rallied to beat Minnesota in the season opener for both teams.
In St Louis, the Blues scored three times in the first 9:45 to jump in front 3-0 and chase Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, and at Dallas Marcel Goc scored two third-period goals, while Florida spoiled Lindy Ruff’s debut as Dallas coach with a season-opening road victory.
Radim Vrbata scored three goals and Mike Smith stopped 23 shots as Phoenix opened their first season with an owner in four years by routing the New York Rangers.
Justin Braun scored his first goal in more than 19 months to break a tie late in the second period as San Jose went on to beat Vancouver 4-1 in the season opener for both teams.
Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels also scored for the Sharks, who have won eight straight against the Canucks including a sweep in the first round of the playoffs last season. Antti Niemi made 21 saves.
Jason Garrison scored a power-play goal and Roberto Luongo made 31 saves for the Canucks, who lost in the debut of new coach John Tortorella.