Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
has already made his mark on team history, and he just keeps adding to it.
Fleury made 27 saves to record his 22nd career shutout, tying him for the best mark in franchise history with Tom Barrasso, in Pittsburgh’s 2-0 win against the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers at CONSOL Energy Center.
“I remember watching (Barrasso) play. I always liked watching,” Fleury said. “And for me to be able to reach him for the shutout means a lot to me. I’ve been fortunate to play with good teams. They helped me out a lot to make it.”
Despite Fleury’s fantastic career numbers, shutouts have been elusive for him. Which is why the team was happy to see him post the big fat 0.
“I was really hoping to get the shutout for him,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “It’s not something he’s always been able to do. He gets this one, gets 22 and ties Tom Barrasso.”
“I thought about it on the bench in the last five minutes,” defenseman Zbynek Michalek
said. “I was saying to myself that we have to play hard until the end just for him. He’s been great for us and we’ve let the shutouts slip away a few times. I’m sure it feels great for him to get this one.”
Fleury made several clutch saves during the game, two in particular with a quick glove that snagged shots from Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan. Fleury’s save on Anisimov was especially impressive as it came on a breakaway in which the goalie had to make a split to catch it.
“I always like the glove, so it would be the small breakaway with the glove hand,” Fleury said of his favorite save of the night.
Fleury is 12-3-1 in his last 16 starts, and 6-1 in his last seven starts at home.
“Marc-Andre has won so many hockey games for us,” Bylsma said. “Tonight, when some of those shots were coming on the power play where you have to stop a shot through traffic and find it, he’s been so solid there as well … Tonight he was really solid because they had some guys in his face on the power play and they had some traffic on him, and he made some strong saves. Got rid of the rebounds and controlled those as well.”
START 'EM UP
The Pens had given up the first two goals of a game in four of the last five games before Tuesday. However, Pittsburgh did not want to fall behind against a team like the Rangers.
The Pens opened the game with a spirited 20 minutes, highlighted by several extended shifts in the offensive zone that had the Rangers backing into a tight box around their net and having difficulty clearing the puck.
Pittsburgh won all the puck battles along the boards and in the offensive zone that allowed them to maintain possession of the puck. The Rangers started backing off the puck and collapsing into the net. The Pens kept the pressure on with good passes to their defensemen, who either steered the puck deep into the zone or took a shot while uncontested.
“It’s another thing we talked about. Our starts lately haven’t been the best,” defenseman Zbynek Michalek
said. “We just wanted to come out strong and dictate the play, and I think we did for a good part of the first period.”
Though the Pens didn’t score a goal in the opening 20 minutes, the solid start gave them the momentum and confidence boost to keep attacking the aggressive Rangers.
“We had them pinned in there quite a few times tonight. Shift after shift, wave after wave,” said Steve Sullivan
, who scored a power-play goal for Pittsburgh. “I think you look at the first period, they were a tired group. They used their timeout. They got a really good sense of what we were going to bring for the whole 60 minutes, and I think we laid the groundwork in the first period for the second and third. We got rewarded very quickly at the beginning of the second period and just kept going from there.”
The Pens converted the game’s first goal just 65 seconds into the second period.
The Rangers had four men entering the offensive zone on a rush, but forward Pascal Dupuis
forced a turnover. Defenseman Kris Letang
retrieved the puck and threw it off the boards for the counter attack.
The puck made its way to Evgeni Malkin
at the opposite blue line. He carried in on goal for a breakaway. Coming in a little hot with speed, Malkin pulled the puck to his backhand and waited as goalie Henrik Lundqvist fell to the ice.
Malkin lifted the puck over the prone netminder to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.
Malkin finished the game with two points (1G-1A) to extend his NHL scoring lead to 73. His assist was the 300th of his career. Malkin also has points in 14 of his last 16 home games.
MIX 'N MATCH
The Pens played the game without defenseman Brooks Orpik
, who missed the contest with an upper-body injury. Ben Lovejoy
was inserted into Orpik’s spot.
The Pens mixed up their defensive pairings in Orpik’s absence. The groups looked like this:
“Sometimes you have to mix things up. I think the good thing about our D-core is anyone’s capable of playing with anyone in different types of situations,” Martin said. “We have a lot of depth so it definitely helps when we mix it up. Tonight we had ‘Brooksy’ out and that’s a tough loss for us, but Benny Lovejoy came in for us and played really well.”
Author: Sam Kasan