NEW YORK -- As Marc-Andre Fleury sat at his locker, smiling on occasion as the questions came fast and furious, he certainly didn't seem like a player who had just won his second straight shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Pittsburgh Penguins' 29-year-old goalie appeared content to maintain the focus that enabled him to stop 57 straight shots in recording back-to-back wins on consecutive nights to help the Penguins to a 2-1 lead in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series against the New York Rangers. Game 4 is Wednesday in New York (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Goalie - PIT
GAA: 2.22 | SVP: 0.925
Fleury made 35 saves in a 2-0 victory Monday in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, becoming the first Pittsburgh goalie with consecutive playoff shutouts. It's a feat he wasn't aware of and one that, to him, won't mean much if he isn't raising the Stanley Cup to end the season.
"To get shutouts on back-to-back nights is not easy," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby
said. "We believe in him and with every game we see him get more and more comfortable. That's contagious, and I think it goes right through the team. To see your goalie confident like that, on top of his game, you see everyone's calm. They get the chance, he makes a save, and we move on, and it's great to see him doing well."
That wasn't always the case, of course. Last spring, the man they call "Flower" struggled in the postseason and was ultimately replaced by backup Tomas Vokoun. Fleury went 2-2 in five games with a 3.52 goals-against average and .883 save percentage in the 2013 playoffs.
He has proven to be a difference-maker between the pipes in 2014.
"The key is to not get too high or too low," Fleury said. "I'm just happy for the win. We're up 2-1 in the series and that's good, and we'll get back at it on Wednesday. I don't think about back-to-back shutouts too much; I just go out and try to make the next save. My teammates played well, and it just feels good when we can win games."
Aside from last season's playoffs, Dan Bylsma has been able to rely on Fleury as his goalie since he took the reins as Penguins coach in February 2009.
"I've won a lot of hockey games with Marc-Andre Fleury in net, during the regular season and when our team won a Stanley Cup in 2009," Bylsma said. "I don't know who the doubters are and when the questions started about his play; I think they've been asking the same questions ever since he was 18 or 19 years old. But I can tell you he wins hockey games for us."
Now in his 10th season, Fleury has a Penguins-high eight shutouts and is 51-37 in 89 playoff games. He became the 47th goalie in NHL history to reach 250 regular-season wins, on Oct. 3, 2013. He is 288-169-46 in 531 regular-season games.
"He's playing phenomenal right now," defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said. "That's no surprise to anyone in our room. He's been rock solid night in and night out, and the fact he's in the zone is no surprise. We're trying to protect the house and maybe we were a little loose at times [on Monday in Game 3], but when we were, Flower was there. We blocked some shots and that also goes a long way."
Fleury was asked how he is able to stay so calm and composed when the opposition is putting on the heat. The Rangers generated several good opportunities, particularly on five power-play chances, but Fleury either made the save or received a little assistance from the goal post.
"I think from experience and living it, you find ways to not get too high or too low and just stay even-keel … is that the right word? Even-keel?" Fleury said. "You just have to be ready for the next game. After every game, I think that night about what I need to do better and move on and get ready for next one."
It's a strategy that has worked wonders for Fleury, who is 6-3 with a 2.22 GAA, .925 save percentage and two shutouts in nine playoff games.