PITTSBURGH - Nobody ever accused Peter Laviolette of not being a risk taker.
Laviolette, in his first full season as the Flyers' coach, made a bold move Thursday when he made 22-year-old Sergei "Bob" Bobrovsky the youngest goalie to ever start a season opener for the franchise.
Twenty-nine saves later, Bobrovsky made Laviolette look like a genius.
Making his NHL debut, the Russian netminder showed his flashy preseason wasn't a fluke, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-2, in the teams' season opener and ruining the opening of the Consol Energy Center.
The Flyers got goals from Danny Briere, Blair Betts, and Claude Giroux.
Briere, stationed to the right of the net, redirected Mike Richards' deft pass from the point past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's glove on the short side with 17 minutes left in the second period. The power-play goal, the first score in the new arena, gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
"A few years ago, my first two years with the Flyers, I was used to having Richie back on the point on the power play," Briere said. "We scored a few goals like that. . . . When we won the face-off and he got the puck, all I was thinking was to find the open space by the side of the net.
"Richie found me just like the good old days, I guess."
With 2 minutes, 45 seconds left in the second period, Darroll Powe tipped James van Riemsdyk's shot off Fleury, and Betts knocked in the rebound to put the Flyers ahead by two, 2-0.
Forty-four seconds into the third period, however, the sellout crowd erupted as Tyler Kennedy, from a bad angle near the top of the left circle, beat Bobrovsky to cut the Penguins' deficit to 2-1.
The Penguins, on the power play, nearly tied it with about 16½ minutes left, but Sidney Crosby's shot caromed off the post - the fourth time Pittsburgh hit iron in the game.
During the same power play, Giroux made the play of the night, stealing the puck from defenseman Kris Letang and scoring a shorthanded goal on some dazzling breakaway moves. His forehand-backhand-forehand maneuver faked Fleury and gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead with 15:05 remaining in regulation.
Nineteen seconds after Giroux's goal, Pittsburgh got to within a goal, at 3-2, when defenseman Alex Goligoski scored on a point drive with one second left on the power play. The shot may have deflected off Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn.
The Flyers, now 20-16-7 in openers in their history, downplayed Laviolete's decision to start Bobrovsky over veteran Brian Boucher.
"We showed last year that no matter who is back there, it's not going to change the way we play," defenseman Matt Carle said before the game. "We'll take it as it goes. He played well in the preseason and he deserves it, for sure."
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Bobrovsky, showing great side-to-side quickness, had a 1.76 goals-against average in five preseason games. He made a favorable impression with the Flyers even before he played an exhibition game.
"He made some saves in scrimmages and everybody was kind of shocked," Carle said. "He gets his pads up quick and never gives up on pucks."
In a scoreless first period Thursday, Bobrovsky made 15 saves, including a stop on which he went from left post to right post to turn aside Mike Comrie in front.
A few minutes before the game started, Pittsburgh co-owner Mario Lemieux christened his team's spectacular new arena by pouring water - it came from the Penguins' old digs, across the street - onto the Pens' center-ice logo.
The fans cheered wildly.
Earlier in the day, the Penguins walked into the arena on a red carpet that stretched outside the spectacular 18,087-seat building (the "87" is in honor of Penguins superstar Crosby).
But the Flyers were rude guests. They had been 3-11 in Pittsburgh in the previous three years, and they were 44-58-22 at the Mellon Arena, also fondly known as the Igloo.
On Thursday, a new era started, one that was supposed to showcase the Consol Energy Center.
Instead, the Penguins and their new arena got upstaged by a Russian they call Bob.