In the locker room hallway at Wachovia Arena stood two easels designating “Team Reirden” and “Team Yeo”, and their respective rosters. Team Reirden, captained by Sidney Crosby, was written in slightly larger print than Team Yeo, captained by Evgeni Malkin.
It was a good foreshadowing of the outcome of the Black and Gold Game, an exhibition contest pitting members of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization against each other.
In front of a sold-out crowd at Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Thursday night, Team Black prevailed by a 3-2 final, with all of their offense coming off of the stick of defenseman Alex Goligoski, an AHL All-Rookie blueliner in 2008.
Goligoski, who orchestrated a hat trick with a first-period wrist shot, a second-period blast from center point, and a third-period fluke deflection, earned first-star honors with his textbook-style of offensive play that could prove deadly to NHL opponents.
His first goal, which came on a power play with Joey Haddad in the box for holding, was set up perfectly by Sergei Gonchar – a 1994 Calder Cup champion – and Crosby. Goligoski took a perfect cross-slot pass from Crosby and deposited the puck over the right shoulder of starting Team Gold goaltender and AHL graduate Marc-Andre Fleury. The goal answered Team Gold’s opening power-play tally, which came from Luca Caputi crashing the net to finish off a Dustin Jeffrey feed from the corner.
Caputi led the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in rookie scoring last season with 45 points (18-27-45) in 66 contests.
Goligoski broke a 1-1 second period deadlock by firing a blast past 2008 AHL All-Rookie goaltender John Curry, who came on to start the second in relief of Fleury. Team Black’s fourth line of Paul Bissonnette, Wyatt Smith, and Eric Godard put in a relentless forechecking effort to give their team the advantage. Team Black goaltender Brent Johnson put in two solid periods of work, stopping 16 of 17 shots, while Curry stopped 15 of 16 in the second period alone, including Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz breakaways, to keep Team Gold in the game.
Goligoski completed the hat trick at 4:35 of the third, sending a low point shot that deflected off of Nick Johnson’s skate past Curry to put Team Black on top 3-1. Northeastern University product Brad Thiessen played the third for Team Black, only giving up a perfectly-placed wrist shot by Michael Rupp.
Both Malkin and Crosby played the third period with a bit of an edge. Malkin, who was held scoreless, provided the hit of the night by leveling Craig Adams along the left boards, while Crosby exchanged cross checks with Kris Letang in the final 30 seconds.
Team Gold was outshot 30-28, while going 1-for-7 on the power play. Team Black finished 1-for-3 on the man advantage.
NOTES: Crosby was named the game’s third star, finishing with one assist… Wheeling Nailers head coach Greg Puhalski assisted Pittsburgh assistant Mike Yeo behind the Team Gold bench, while new Wilkes-Barre/Scranton assistant coach John Hynes worked the Team Black bench with Todd Reirden, the AHL Penguins’ bench boss… The Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, and Prince of Wales trophy were all available to fans for photos prior to the game… Pittsburgh returns to Mellon Arena tonight to face the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 pm… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton opens their preseason schedule tomorrow at 7:05 pm against Binghamton at Broome Community College.