Fleury was summoned to replace Tomas Vokoun after the latter allowed three goals over the first 12 shots he faced when the Pittsburgh Penguins suffered a 6-1 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of this Eastern Conference Final at Consol Energy Center. Fleury didn't fare much better, allowing three goals on 17 shots over the final 39:24 of the game and the Penguins fell behind 2-0 in the best-of-7 series.
Neither was to blame, coach Dan Bylsma said, and it’s unknown if Fleury will get the starting nod when the series shifts to TD Garden in Boston on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"It's tough to evaluate given the breakdowns and the type of scoring chances that they scored on for both goalies," Bylsma said.
Vokoun was victimized by a Brad Marchand breakaway, a Kris Letang failed clear, and a 3-on-2 capped by a David Krejci shot in being beaten three times for the second consecutive game. That followed a stretch in which he allowed 14 goals in seven games after Bylsma turned to him to replace ineffective Fleury following Game 4 of the first-round series against the New York Islanders.
Neither the coach nor the goalies would touch the question of whom should or will start Game 3.
"Don't ask me," Fleury said, tersely.
"It's the coach's decision," Vokoun said.
"Everyone we put on the ice for Game 3 is going to be giving us the best chance to win the hockey game," Bylsma said, sidestepping a direct answer.
The way the Bruins are torturing the Penguins, the bigger question might be, does it even matter?
"You want to keep going after every goaltender, but they have two really solid ones," Marchand said. "We've gotten a few lucky goals the last couple games and hopefully they'll keep going in."
Marchand's second goal of the first period came on the first shot Fleury faced since losing the title of starting goalie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since he entered the League as the No. 1 NHL Draft pick in 2003.
"It felt a little bit rusty not being in there for a while, jumping right back in is a little different than practice," Fleury said. "Just the speed of the game. It felt fast at first."
Fleury's numbers for the postseason are far from solid. He has a 3.52 goals-against average and .883 save percentage; Vokoun's have declined to 2.26 and .929.
"I didn't feel they were bad goals [Monday]," Vokoun said. "But that's part of hockey. I'm sure the coach wanted to change the momentum."
Bylsma resisted that urge after a 3-0 loss in Game 1. Now he must ponder if switching back to Fleury is the Penguins' best bet for getting back into the series.
Of the shots that got past Vokoun, Bylsma said, "I don't think there was a lot of fault in those three goals by the goaltender."
Fleury lost his job after allowing six goals in a Game 4 loss to the Islanders on May 7. That left him with 14 goals against over a three-game span.
Fleury and Vokoun, a 36-year-old veteran seeking his first Stanley Cup, share a strong relationship. Neither has been one to ruffle feathers or make any public statements about playing time.
"Don't ask me."
-- Marc-Andre Fleury when asked if he should be starting Game 3 on Wednesday
"I'm a player -- I'm ready to play any time they tell me," Vokoun said.
Vokoun played so well over his first seven playoff games -- Pittsburgh won six of them -- that there were few rumblings of any goaltending controversy. That was remarkable considering the pedigree of Fleury, a still-in-his-prime Stanley Cup winner who has been a franchise fixture for almost a decade.
Among Fleury's finest moments with the Penguins are backstopping comebacks from 2-0 series deficits twice during the 2009 run to the Cup. On each occasion -- against the Washington Capitals in the conference semifinals and the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final -- Fleury was solid in Game 3 victories. He was a combined 8-1 the remainder of both series.
No matter who starts in goal, he will have to be stellar if the Penguins are to climb out of their hole.
"It's not a feeling where we want to be, but we have a lot of experience in the room and I know a lot of the guys have been down and won a series before," Fleury said. "So we'll just put those two behind us and make sure we get back to our game.
"Nobody's going to quit. There's lot of experience on the team, a lot of guys who have been down 2-0 and won a series. Nobody's going to quit, for sure."