It was so bad for Pittsburgh Penguins
goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
that even his teammates were beating him up.
During Tuesday's optional practice, Miroslav Satan
him in the neck with a shot; Fleury was OK, but it was one of many shots that had been fired his way for perceived poor play.
The question had been posed in print, on radio and on the Internet -- can Fleury win a game?
"I think that's a good reason I don't watch TV or read the paper," Fleury said.
Fleury answered all his critics the best way he could -- with a stunning glove save on an Alex Ovechkin
breakaway three minutes into a scoreless game.
Ovechkin raced past defenseman Rob Scuderi
and came in full-bore on Fleury. But as Fleury fell backward, he snared the wrist shot from in close. With one snap of his glove, he seemed to snap the life out of the Capitals.
"That's a game-breaker," teammate Maxime Talbot
said after Pittsburgh's 6-2 win in Game 7 on Wednesday night. "If he scores, maybe the game goes the other way. But he makes a big save, and guys on the bench are like 'Oh my God.' And we start playing even better."
Minutes later, Sidney Crosby
scored the game's first goal and the rout was on.
Fleury saw only 21 shots, including just 12 in the first two periods. But with the Capitals' wealth of scorers, that group doesn't need too many opportunities to make the most of them.
"You look at the forwards on their team and how dangerous they are, they make things out of nothing," Crosby said. "There were times we felt like we didn't give them anything and they found ways to get a good shot off or make a nice play. That's not easy to play against as a goalie. You have to be aware all the time. Marc did a great job. Big game like tonight, he stood tall and was huge for us."
Fleury is a pretty unassuming person, but his quiet demeanor masks a highly competitive player. When asked the day after Game 6 if he would have wanted a mulligan on any of the goals he allowed in the 5-4 overtime defeat, he said, "All of them. I hate to give up goals, I hate to lose games."
His teammates know there's more to their goaltender than meets the eye.
"Maybe he shows up like a guy who wants to have fun and is relaxed," Talbot said. "But when the puck drops, there's competition on the line, he wants to win."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.