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Fleury's ex-teammates with Penguins happy for his success in playoffs

Goaltender sparked first-year Golden Knights to sweep in opening round

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Tom Kuhnhackl stayed up late for all four games between the Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings because he wanted to watch his close friend and countryman, forward Tobias Rieder, play for the Kings.

Instead, the Pittsburgh Penguins forward found himself mesmerized by a beloved former teammate now playing for the Golden Knights.

Bring up Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury around any of his former Penguins' teammates and they just light up. Talk about his performance in Vegas' four-game sweep of the Kings in the Western Conference First Round and they just marvel.

Fleury allowed three goals in four games and finished with a .977 save percentage (127 saves on 130 shots) to help the Golden Knights become the first team in any of North America's four major professional sports leagues to complete a playoff series sweep in its inaugural season.

 

[RELATED: Golden Knights fueled by Fleury, airtight defense in sweep of Kings | Complete Golden Knights-Sharks series coverage]

 

"We know what he's capable of," Kuhnhackl said of Fleury. "When Murr [Penguins goalie Matt Murray] was hurt [last season], he stepped in for us and he did a tremendous job for us. He's obviously a face that's missed here. When you say his name, everybody thinks of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He always had a smile on his face, was always joking around, was always so loose. What he's done so far with Vegas, it's just outstanding."

Kuhnhackl especially couldn't get over the fact that Fleury allowed three goals in four games. Vegas scored seven goals against Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (.947 save percentage) and still won four in a row.

"That's ridiculous," Kuhnhackl said. "You'd think you give up seven goals in a series you'd be up 3-1 or at least it would be 2-2."

Kuhnhackl wasn't alone in his amazement at what Fleury and the Golden Knights accomplished.

Video: VGK@LAK, Gm4: Fleury stymies Kings to sweep series

"I mean, both goaltenders, you can look at them and see what that series was like, but just the way he can do it, you're just like, 'How can he let in only that amount?' " forward Jake Guentzel said. "Definitely good to see."

Fleury's former teammates in Pittsburgh have enjoyed watching him have success all season. They've paid attention because the Golden Knights have been arguably the NHL's best story this season, but also because they still adore Fleury and never really wanted to see him leave.

Vegas selected Fleury in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. He was left exposed because the Penguins could only protect one goaltender and they chose Murray, who at 23 is 10 years younger than Fleury.

"He's one of the best guys I've ever played with," forward Connor Sheary said. "You're just happy to see a guy like that get success, especially with the tough situation he was in."

It's also possible that the Penguins could face Fleury in the Stanley Cup Final.

Pittsburgh leads the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in the Eastern Conference First Round. Game 4 of the best-of-7 series is at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, NBCSP, ATTSN-PT).

"Just knowing the type of guy he is and what he meant to this organization and this city, seeing him have success and play so well and be so happy where he is, it's so good," forward Bryan Rust said of Fleury. "Everyone is happy for him."

 

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Golden Knights vs. Kings

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