By Jeremy Houghtaling
Cory Conacher  did a little bit of everything Saturday.
Besides supplying the Crunch with a goal and an assist, he played the point on the first power play unit and drove hard to the net when he wasn't. The last part surely got under the skin of Bears goalie Braden Holtby. The two met in the crease a few times, and at one point it appeared Holtby was throwing punches after the two crashed into the net.
"I just broke my stick and stumbled into him," Conacher said. "I'm the one that goes to the net and does that kind of stuff."
His style and consistency earned Conacher the trophy as the league's most valuable player last season, as he racked up 39 goals and 80 points in 75 regular season games and another 15 points in 18 postseason games.
Although he knows it will likely mean not getting a Christmas card from most goalies in the league, Conacher knows its something he has to do.
"I talk to a lot of guys, especially in the summer with ex-NHL or AHL guys," he said. "They know how hard it is for small guys to stay in the league and make that next step up. You have to have that fearless attitude getting into those dirty areas.
"(Tyler) Johnson — the same thing. He plays like he's six feet tall. That's something we need to make it to the next level."
Pictured: Crunch center Alex Killorn  looks to pass against the Bears at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
With 6,434 fans — a sell out crowd — packing the Onondaga County War Memorial for the first home game of the Tampa Bay Lightning era, the new-look Crunch fed into the excitement.
"It's great. A sold out crowd, a lot of excitement with the fans," Johnson said. "For us to come out with a win is huge."
Also impressed, Conacher likened Syracuse to a Canadian city for its passion for the game.
"It was amazing," he said. "Norfolk was great last year and coming here is just a new atmosphere. The guy announced a sell out barn, and hopefully we can keep doing that."
After taking three out of a possible four points in the opening weekend, the Crunch have plenty to smile about.
But when The Post-Standard beat writer Lindsay Kramer inquired about the Crunch's practice schedule for the coming week to Syracuse head coach Jon Cooper, he got an unexpected response.
"You know what, I think we'll just take the week off," Cooper joked. "Hey, three points."
The line drew a chuckle from those left in the Crunch locker room.
"You take three out of four all season and you'll be in good shape," Kramer quipped.
That's no joke.
Conacher - Johnson - Palat
Connolly - Killorn - Panik
Labrie - Angelidis - Wyman
Brown - Namestnikov
Gudas - Aulie
Barberio - Nightingale
Cote - Taormina
- With seven defensemen dressed, Korobov seemed to rotate into the pairs occasionally and saw time on the power play and penalty kill. Brown and Namestnikov were used sparingly at even strength, with Labrie, Killorn or Wyman frequently added to their other wing. Both were used on the power play, with Brown sometimes manning one of the points.
Pictured: Crunch forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie  battles for the puck in front of the Bears' net at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.