Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
made 36 saves to backstop the Penguins to their sixth straight win in a 2-1 triumph against the Phoenix Coyotes at CONSOL Energy Center Monday night.
Fleury was the difference maker in the game, making spectacular save after spectacular save to record his 35th win of the season.
“We’ve been winning, so that’s what matters,” Fleury said. “Every night, I just try to give our team a chance to win the game. They’ve been playing great hockey in front of me. Blocking a lot of shots and helping out a lot.”
Fleury’s best save came on a shorthanded breakaway by Martin Hanzal. The Pens were skating the puck out of their zone when Hanzal stripped the puck and skated in all alone on goal. Fleury jetted 50 feet out of the goal and attempted a diving poke-check.
“I think I saw him with his head down for a little bit, so I thought I’d try to surprise him,” Fleury said. “But on the way there, it felt pretty long, but it turned out all right.”
Hanzal’s shot went off of Fleury’s pad, was retrieved by the Pens and cleared out of danger. Chants of “Fleury! Fleury!” resonated throughout the arena.
“He was our best player tonight,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He makes it look pretty easy with his mobility and then being solid and square to the shooter. … Just solid and every night what he’s given our team. Tonight (he) is probably what made the difference in the game.”
PK IS OK
The Pens were scrambling in their zone late in the third period when Matt Niskanen
was forced to take a hooking penalty. Pittsburgh was clinging to a 2-1 lead with 6:36 left in regulation.
Fleury made several clutch saves and the PK unit scratched and clawed to keep the puck out of the net. The clutch kill allowed the Pens to maintain their 2-1 edge and finish strong for the victory.
‘“Flower” was a big part of (the kill),” center Jordan Staal
said. “He had an unbelievable game with some great saves and obviously he is our best penalty killer of all time. He did a great job. The PK’s been finding ways to kill them off when we need to, especially the big ones. We were fortunate to do that again tonight.”
Pittsburgh has killed 53-of-54 (98.1 percent) power plays by Western Conference teams this season.
snapped a 37-game goal-less streak by scoring his second tally of the season, against his former employer no less.
“Any time you score, it’s a good moment,” he said. “I was happy for myself, it’s been a while. I’ve gotten a lot of chances lately and finally one went in. I kind of felt bad for their team at the same time. I have a lot of friends on that side and spent a lot of time playing with them. It was a big game for them. But it was a great goal for us, a big goal for us because in the first, they were coming at us hard. At the time, the momentum was on their side. It was a big boost for us and helped our team, definitely.”
Michalek, who played five seasons in Phoenix from 2005-10, took a pass from Staal in the slot after joining a rush. He snapped a shot stick side that eluded goaltender Mike Smith to give the Pens a 1-0 lead halfway through the first period.
“I called for it. I don’t think ‘Staalsy’ saw me, but he said when I called for it he just put it there,” Michalek said. “I just tried to put it on net and it went in.
“Even when I got the puck on my goal, to be honest, I didn’t even aim. I just got the puck, put my head down and tried to put it on net. Just lucky it went in.”
After scoring his goal the CONSOL Energy Center big screen played a clip from the film Braveheart in which the actors seem to be screaming “Michalek!” several times.
The Pens’ Michalek was quite entertained by the sight.
“It’s a well-known movie, even back home, one of the classics. It’s one of my favorites,” Michalek said. “Coach asked me about it, and I missed it. I just looked at the jumbotron when it was ending. Coach said I need to score more because he wants to see the video again. So maybe when I score, if it happens, I’ll be able to see it.”
BACK AT IT
Forward Tyler Kennedy
returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a high-ankle sprain, suffered Feb. 5 at New Jersey.
“I felt pretty good. A little rusty at the start, but I felt good overall,” Kennedy said. “It’s been four weeks here, and you are always nervous of coming back and where you are going to fit in and if you are ready. It felt good so I’m pretty happy."
Kennedy finished the game with 14:20 minutes of ice time, three shots and a blocked shot.
GENO KEEPS ROLLING
Pens center Evgeni Malkin
notched an assist on Chris Kunitz
’s first period goal to extend his scoring streak to eight games (6G-6A) and regain first place in the NHL scoring race with 81 points (38G-43A).
Malkin now has points in 14 of his last 16 games and points in 17 of his last 19 home games.
Malkin now has 499 career NHL points. His next point will make him the 17th Russian-born player all-time to reach 500, and would tie him with Syl Apps for eight place on the team’s all-time scoring list.
Author: Sam Kasan