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You never forget your first time He shot, he scored, and his family and teammates were there to cheer him on. SHAWNA RICHER reports from Pittsburgh

He shot, he scored, and his family and teammates were there to cheer him on. SHAWNA RICHER reports from Pittsburgh

Trina Crosby emerged from the Pittsburgh Penguins dressing room clutching a sweaty, neatly folded hockey jersey to her chest.

Troy Crosby followed behind, in his right hand a stick, a black Sherwood Momentum model that will never score another goal.

The stick's work is done; its owner's work is just beginning.

Ms. Crosby held out the black Penguins jersey. On the bird's chubby white belly in black marker, her son had written: "To Dad, Thanks for helping me live my dream! Love, Sidney Crosby 87."

"Isn't this wonderful," Ms. Crosby said, full of a mother's pride. "What an incredible night for him. He is here."

By now, Mr. Crosby's first National Hockey League goal, scored on Saturday night 18 minutes and 36 seconds into the second period of the Penguins' home opener at Mellon Arena, has been replayed on television dozens of times.

Yesterday morning, on ESPN radio, an announcer posed the question to callers: "Sidney Crosby or Jesus, who's more important to society?" The query might push some people's tastes, but it is difficult to believe it was even raised on a sacred football Sunday, about an athlete who is not the Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.

Mr. Crosby, in his home debut and third NHL game, looked every bit the saviour of the once-troubled Iron City hockey club. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and a standing-room sellout crowd of 17,132 watched. Mr. Crosby saluted them by raising his stick after he was named the game's second star.

It was a historic moment, not only for the 18-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., who also contributed two assists, but for the Penguins who drafted him first in July, the parents who raised him and the countries that are cheering for him.

Heading into tonight's game in Buffalo, he leads the team with five points and is the top-scoring NHL rookie so far.

"Look at him," Ms. Crosby said, watching her son sign autographs for fans who waited hours after the game had ended. "He is going to be fine. He belongs here."

Mr. Crosby's parents and 9-year-old sister Taylor, who still live in Cole Harbour, watched the game from Section 32, about halfway up, with their son's agents, Pat Brisson and Dee Rizzo of IMG. They were near the net being guarded by Boston Bruins goaltender Hannu Toivonen, when Mr. Crosby scored.

"I cried. So did he," Ms. Crosby said looking at her husband. "Not big sobs, just happy emotional tears."

"I'm pretty proud of him," Mr. Crosby said. "We both are happy for him."

Twice, the Penguins held two-goal leads in the game, and Mario Lemieux had his first two-goal game since February, 2003. But the Penguins still lost 7-6 in overtime.

The defeat sapped some of the joy for Mr. Crosby, but not for his mother. "That doesn't take away from it at all," she said. "When he scored the goal, he was so happy. I could see his face from where I was sitting. He was just so excited. And to hear the fans chanting his name, was just incredible. They love him."

Little wonder. Pittsburgh was leading 5-4 on the power play late in the second period when Mr. Crosby threw the puck at the net and then skated in to grab his own rebound. Mark Recchi and Ziggy Palffy tried to score, but Mr. Crosby found an opening and swept the puck high on the right side through traffic and into the goal.

"There was a big crowd so I just tried to stay off and hope the puck came my way," he said. "It bounced to me and I had an open net."

He burst. He pumped his stick in the air and skated hard toward the boards behind the net. Aggressively, he hurled himself a metre into the air and backward against the glass, yelling "Yeah! Yeah!"

Mr. Palffy and Mr. Recchi embraced their teammate. On the Penguins bench, the others, on their feet even before Mr. Crosby touched the puck, shouted through smiles.

"We were excited for him," Mr. Lemieux said. "But he was pretty excited too."

The crowd gave him two standing ovations and chanted his name.

"I looked forward to it for a long time," Mr. Crosby said later. "It feels awesome. Yeah, I was happy. It's something you dream of, scoring in the NHL and you only do it the first time once. It was big. There's a lot of emotion.

"The fans were great. It was so loud. I never expected to hear them [chanting] my name. You never expect that."

He said he did not know exactly where the puck came from. "It just was in front and guys were battling for it," he said. "It came my way and bounced into the net. I was lucky."

His prettiest play of the night set up a Penguin defenceman who had one goal in his past 86 games. Mr. Crosby, charging along the right wing with the puck, fought off Boston blueliner Hal Gill, who is eight inches taller and 55 pounds heavier.

Then he used his crafty backhand to feed Brooks Orpik in the left circle, putting the puck right on his stick so he could score. "I couldn't believe he saw me," Mr. Orpik said.

He also set up defenceman Ric Jackman, who had 10 goals in his past 138 games.

"Those two passes he made were as good as it gets," Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said. "It's the way to kick off your home debut."

After the game, Mr. Crosby, freshly showered and dressed in a dark suit and pale blue shirt and patterned bright blue tie, emerged from the dressing room with his parents, who were clutching the tools of their son's trade.

The jersey, stick and a puck that bears a small white label (to mark it used for the first NHL goal) will go to the Crosby family rec room, which boasts a museum-like collection of their son's memorabilia.

After he talked to some friends from Montreal and signed some jerseys, Mr. Crosby and his parents and his agents rode the arena elevator upstairs to the Igloo Club for a private reception with city dignitaries, sponsors and club investors. They celebrated the return of Penguins hockey, Mr. Lemieux's recent 40th birthday, Mr. Crosby's debut and, as a late addition to the program, his first goal.

ON THE ICE

The race for the Calder Trophy, which recognizes the best rookie, will be fierce. Tracking the top contenders:

SIDNEY CROSBY, 18, C, Pittsburgh: 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points in 3 games;

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN, 20, LW, Washington: 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points in 3 games;

COREY PERRY, 20, RW, Anaheim: 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points in 2 games.

Games played through Oct. 8

OFF THE ICE

Sidney Crosby made the Sunday front pages of his hometown newspapers. Sidney Scores: Penguins Rookie Has 3-Point Night was the headline in the Halifax Chronicle Herald.

Halifax's Daily News proclaimed: Sid Nets First NHL Goal.

Both ran the now-famous photo of the rookie celebrating, arms raised and shouting "Yeah!"

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