Connor Bedard did not disappoint in his NHL debut.
The Chicago rookie picked up an assist and dazzled occasionally with his skating as his team rallied past Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 on Tuesday night.
The 18-year-old Bedard, the top pick in the NHL draft, played over 21 minutes, often sharing the ice with Crosby, one of his idols. Bedard registered five of the 35 shots Chicago fired at Tristan Jarry as Chicago began a new era with an impressive victory over the veteran-laden Penguins.
Chicago trailed 2-0 when Crosby began his 19th season by scoring his 551st career goal, a shot into an open net off a pass from Jake Guentzel 11:56 into the second period.
Chicago roared back behind goals from Ryan Donato — with a secondary assist from Bedard — in the second period. Cole Guttman tied it midway through the third and Jason Dickinson gave Chicago the lead with 4:31 remaining. Nick Foligno’s empty-netter with 1:33 to go sent most of the sellout crowd that came to watch one of the NHL’s brightest stars take on one of its newest.
Connor’s first NHL point 🎙️ <a href=”https://t.co/sv3lXwKEbQ”>pic.twitter.com/sv3lXwKEbQ</a>
Petr Mrazek stopped 38 shots for Chicago.
Crosby and Bryan Rust scored for the Penguins, who had their run of 16 consecutive playoff appearances end last spring thanks in part to a late-season pratfall against the Blackhawks. Pittsburgh retooled over the summer, including adding three-time Norris Trophy-winning defenceman Erik Karlsson.
Fireworks, however, were hard to come by for the NHL’s oldest team. Jarry made 32 saves but the Penguins let a lead slip away late, a problem that plagued them at times last season.
Like Crosby, Bedard seems at ease with the attention, pressure and expectations that will follow him throughout his career. He joked during the morning skate that he slept “like a baby.” He sprinted onto the ice with fellow rookie Kevin Korchinski during warmups, the two teenagers having the rink to themselves momentarily as is tradition for players making their NHL debuts.
Bedard was fidgety during the national anthem, his legs in constant motion, eager to get a moment he’d been dreaming about since he was a phenom growing up in British Columbia, watching Crosby become one of the cornerstones of the NHL.
Referee Kelly Sutherland welcomed Bedard to the NHL right before the opening faceoff. Sutherland then dropped the puck between two generational talents and the jitters vanished.
Referee Kelly Sutherland welcomes Crosby to the game and Bedard to the NHL… <a href=”https://twitter.com/penguins?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@penguins</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/NHLBlackhawks?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@NHLBlackhawks</a> <a href=”https://t.co/Yy3innv8OF”>pic.twitter.com/Yy3innv8OF</a>
Bedard recorded the first shot of his career just over six minutes in on a one-timer with Chicago on the power play. He kept right on firing at Jarry, his No. 98 constantly in motion. He was unafraid to fling his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame into tight spaces, be they the front of the net or the corners.
Guttman then tied it just past the midway point of the third period with a laser from the slot and Dickinson put Chicago in front to offer a glimpse of the team it hopes it can become on a regular basis, with Bedard at the centre of it all.
Earlier, the Tampa Bay Lightning dropped the puck on their season with a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators.
The reigning champion Vegas Golden Knights were set to unveil their Stanley Cup banner during their home opener against the Seattle Kraken later Tuesday.