PITTSBURGH --Marc-Andre Fleury was recovering from a high ankle sprain during the Pittsburgh Penguins' first foray into a Winter Classic, in 2008. Not only did he not get the start against the Buffalo Sabres, he didn't even get to dress and take the ice.
Three years later, Fleury looked like he was making up for lost time early during the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
Fleury started so hot that not even the rain that fell during Saturday night's game against the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field could cool him. He stopped the first 20 shots he faced and added an assist on Evgeni Malkin's goal that gave the Pens a 1-0 lead early in the second period.
Then the flood gates opened.
A scramble in his crease ended with the Caps' Mike Knuble tying the game with a power-play goal at 6:54. Then Eric Fehr scored at 14:45 after Fleury turned the puck over behind his net and couldn't get back in position. Fehr put the game away when he snapped a wrister over Fleury's glove with 8:01 left in the third period.
Fleury allowed three goals on the Caps' final 12 shots as the Pens' fell 3-1, but said the conditions and different sight lines didn't play into any of the goals.
"It wasn’t that bad," Fleury said. "When the puck goes a little high, that's when you battle a little more. I thought it was nice out there."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Friday that Fleury mentioned the only problem he had with the wet ice that morning was when he had to slide on the ice. Fleury had a hard time sealing the puck on Knuble's goal but attributed that goal to the beating his pads took during the chaos in his crease.
"The first one was more of a scramble in front. Maybe a little stick between my legs," Fleury said. "I just lost it. There were so many guys and sticks banging in my pads, I lost it."
The second goal is the one over which Fleury might lose sleep.
The Caps' David Steckel gained the red line and dumped the puck behind the net. Fleury left his crease to play the puck, but it slid off his stick and directly into trouble. Marcus Johansson controlled the puck and fed it to the slot to Fehr, who ripped a quick shot into the vacated net.
"That second one, it's just frustrating," Fleury said. "I went back there to stop it and it was gone."
Teammate Chris Kunitz sympathized with Fleury on the wet conditions possibly playing a part in the Caps' second goal.
"It didn't seem like the puck would always sit in the proper area of your stick," Kunitz said. "Maybe you wanted to, if you could, get an extra stickhandle in or something. We knew it was going to be tough."