– Nobody in Pittsburgh liked Marc-Andre Fleury
's performance Wednesday night.
"I think there are a couple that he is going to be thinking about after tonight's game that he is going to want back," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma
said. "He knows he can be a lot better in those situations to give us a chance."
Fleury allowed five goals on a night he would like to forget as soon as possible. Ottawa needed every one of those goals to pull off the upset, handing the defending Stanley Cup champion a 5-4 loss at Mellon Arena to open up this best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
"It's frustrating," Fleury said. "I hate giving up so many goals. It's tough. I can't do any more about it and I have to just be ready for the next one."
Will he be ready for Friday's Game 2? Amazingly that was the question on many lips after Wednesday night's meltdown. Fleury was pulled from eight starts this season, including last week's regular-season loss to Washington in the penultimate home game at Mellon Arena.
Since the Olympics, where he served as Canada's third-string goalie and did not see any action, Fleury played in 17 regular-season games. He allowed three or more goals in 11 of them and was yanked by Bylsma three times.
The numbers can certainly be a cause for worry. But, that's not the case -- at least in the Penguins dressing room.
"He won a Stanley Cup last year, went to the Final the year before," defenseman Alex Goligoski
said. "There's not a doubt in anyone's mind. He's a great goalie. He battles every game and he never gives up on pucks. It's just the way he is; he can put things behind him."
Fleury certainly has a proven track record in that record.
Fleury allowed four or more goals on five different occasions during the 2009 playoffs. Each time, he followed up those clunkers with brilliant performances. Never more so, though, in the Stanley cup Final against Detroit.
Remember, Fleury was the goalie who allowed five goals to Detroit in Game 5 to put his team on the brink of failure. That night, it looked like the veteran Red Wings had solved Fleury. Three nights later, though, Fleury stopped 25 of 26 shots to lead Pittsburgh to a series-saving 2-1 victory. Forty-eight hours later, it was a 23-save performance as Pittsburgh forged a 2-1 victory -- at Joe Louis Arena, no less -- that delivered the franchise its third championship.
Fleury doesn't anticipate having any problems forgetting about his performance in the playoff opener.
"I think I have learned about," Fleury said when asked about putting bad games behind him. "I have had to do it many times. I can do it and that is what is important. I have to make sure I come to the rink and forget about that one."
It won't be easy, though. On Wednesday night, Fleury was the victim of both bad form and bad luck. It was a combination that left him shaking his head in the aftermath.
Fleury talked Wednesday morning about how important rebound control was to his game. But that talk didn't translate into performance. Ottawa erased Pittsburgh's 1-0 lead when Fleury allowed a shot by Jason Spezza
to trampoline off his leg pad and right onto the stick of Peter Regin
for a put-back goal early in the first period.
"I think that first goal was off the pads and for sure I would like to have a stick on it and put it in the corner; but I didn't, so it was costly," Fleury said.
Less than six minutes later, Fleury could only shrug off a high shot by Anton Volchenkov
and was helpless when Chris Neil
gloved down the rebound and whipped it past Fleury on the short side.
But it was goal No. 3 that may live in infamy.
Ottawa's Chris Campoli
rifled in an innocent dump-in, but the puck took a funny bounce off a stanchion in the corner and bounded into the slot -- while Fleury was caught behind the net waiting to play a puck that never reached him. Instead, Chris Kelly
slammed it into an empty net for the easiest playoff goal he will ever score.
"I think there are a couple that he (Fleury) is going to be thinking about after tonight's game that he is going to want back. He knows he can be a lot better in those situations to give us a chance.." -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma
To a man, the Penguins blamed that goal for Wednesday's outcome.
"That bounce they got on that third goal, that ended up being the difference," was how captain Sidney Crosby
But, to a degree, that is revisionist history. The Penguins came back from that 3-1 deficit and made the score 4-3 before Jarkko Ruutu
scored the backbreaker at 9:40 of the third period, one-timing a pretty pass from Neil on a 2-on-1.
That goal -- on a stoppable shot from the left circle -- is the one that may haunt Fleury through a long night of what-ifs and could-have-beens.
"Last one with Ruuts, I thought I was there and there was nothing for him to shoot, you know?" Fleury said, almost plaintively. "It just squeaked by a little bit."