Canadiens Can Bookend Mellon Arena NHL History With a Win Tonight

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And for the 99th and final time tonight at the Mellon Arena, the Penguins will host the Montreal Canadiens!

Regardless of tonight's outcome, the seventh game of the 2010 Conference Semi-Finals will be the very last time the Canadiens visit the cavernous and beautiful Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.

Might it also be the final curtain call for the Penguins in their illustrious home?

It has not been lost on historians of the game that the Canadiens were the first NHL team to play a regular season game at the affectionately named Igloo, then known as the Pittsburgh Civic Auditorium back on October 11, 1967.

 

  

The post- Original Six expansion era kicked off that fateful night, with Habs right winger Gilles Tremblay scoring the first NHL regular season goal, a shorthanded unassited marker at 17:29 of the first period. At the 53 second mark of the second, Jean Beliveau's 400 career NHL goal would prove to be the eventual game winner, as the Penguins Andy Bathgate scored the first goal in Penguins history at the 2:08 mark of the third period.

Despite that fact that the Stanley Cup finalist Canadiens were a favorite to win by a large margin, the story of the game proved to be goaltending. Pittsburgh's Hank Bassen made 33 saves, while sophomore Rogie Vachon's acrobatics held fort for Montreal.

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After the game, Pittsburgh coach Red Sullivan allowed that Vachon was the difference, while Habs bench boss Toe Blake expressed disappointed in his team's effort. 

Fast forward 43 hockey seasons, and the Habs and Pens are at it once more, meeting for only the second time ever in the post season.

Aside from the usual seventh game winner take all stakes, the Penguins will be facing the prospect of extending the arena's history or seeing it's arena doors close with a loss. It would be sad irony for Pittsburgh to close with the Canadiens, having opened with them all those years ago.

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1967 Pittsburgh Penguins Team Photo: Front row: GM Jack Riley, Leo Boivin, Earl Ingarfield, Owner Jack McGregor, Coach Red Sullivan, Ab McDonald, Al MacNeil and PR man Joe Gordon

Middle Row: Hank Bassen, Dick Mattiussi, George Konik, Andy Bathgate, Art Stratton, Noel Price, Billy Speer, Paul Andrea and Les Binkley

Back row: Gene Ubriaco, Val Fonteyne, Ken Schinkel, Bob Dillabough, Keith McCreary, Billy Dea and trainer Ken Carson 

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Here are some all time stats between the two clubs since Pittsburgh joined the NHL.

Montreal Reg Season Forum / Bell record against Penguins 92-65-17-10 / GF 415 GA 240

Montreal Reg Season Mellon Arena record against Penguins 92-46-31-13-2 / GF 325 GA 278

Montreal Playoff Bell record against Penguins (1998/2010) 4-2 / GF 16 GA 14

Montreal Playoff Mellon Arena record against Penguins (1998, 2010) 3-3 / GF 16 GA 17

Total Montreal Record Regular Season and Playoffs 196-118-53-23-2 / GF 772 GA 549

Total Mellon Arena Montreal Record Regular Season and Playoffs 98-49-34-13-2

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Here's a few facts, outdated by the past season's game played, between the Canadiens and Pittsburgh from the Penguins 2009-10 press guide. 
   
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Earlier, at the beginning of the Canadiens series with the Penguins, I posted about the long and illustrious Pittsburgh professional hockey history dating back to 1906. I purposed saved a great deal about the Mellon Arena history with this date in mid.

The Mellon is the most unique hockey arena in the NHL, by far, and I learned so much about it doing this research. The clippings and images you will see below, whether you are a passionate Pittsburgh fan or simply a hockey history buff like myself, will surely be a treat. They come from the pages of the Pittsburgh Press on September 16, 1961, when the Arena opened, and again from October 10, 11 and 12, 1967, on the pages leading up to and covering the Penguins first game. For those interested in seeing more new clippings from that era, do a search the Pittsburgh Press pages in the Google news archives. The online library for the paper goes back as far as 1900.

The 1961 clippings are quite the revelation. On the September 16 date, the Pittsburgh Press ran close to 20 pages on the Civic Auditorium's grand opening. It's an impressive spread through those pages, and I tried being as selective as possible with the over 30 images chosen below.

I hope you enjoy the trip dowm memory lane!


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