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Fleury Carries Pens to Victory

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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PHILADELPHIA -- Marc-Andre Fleury’s skate blades cut through the ice of his crease as he prepared to defend the Penguins goal in a shootout against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wachovia Center Thursday night.

Behind Fleury, a Philadelphia fan held up a sign, which was projected on the jumbotron, that read: “You Will Choke.” But this night belonged to Fleury and the sign couldn’t have been more incorrect and ironic.

Fleury used an active stick to poke check both of Philadelphia’s shootout shooters (Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux) and Pittsburgh converted both of its opportunities to defeat the Flyers, 3-2, for the second time in this home-and-home series.

“We’re playing well,” Fleury said. “We played a full 65 minutes. We’ve been working on shootouts a lot and it’s paying off for us.”

“The shootout starts with your goalie,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “You need the saves to give your shooters a chance to win. As a shooter you’re a lot more confident when you’re shooting to win instead of playing catch up and there’s a little more pressure. That really starts with ‘Flower,’ and he provides that cushion to our shooters to really go for it and have that confidence to get the win.”

Fleury’s performances definitely inspired confidence in his head coach.

“It felt like it didn’t matter how many shooters were going to go, he was up to the challenge,” Dan Bylsma said. “We have confidence in our shooters and we know that we have a great backstop back there.”

Fleury, however, didn’t just save his spectacular play for just the shootout. He was even more impressive in the first 65 minutes of the game, turning aside 31 shots and making several key saves.

“I felt pretty good,” Fleury said. “Every time we play them it’s pretty intense, a pretty good battle. The crowd got into it a little bit. It’s always a fun game to play.”

Fleury’s impact on the game cannot be understated. He slammed the door on Arron Asham’s breakaway opportunity and made a strong follow-up save on a James Van Riemsdyk shot in the second period. He also stopped Asham on a pointblank shot in the third and got a pad on Mike Richard’s wraparound attempt in the final seconds of overtime.

He played great. He made some really big saves throughout the game, a breakaway and some loose pucks around the net. Off that breakaway he ended up stopping a couple right after - Sidney Crosby
“He played great,” Crosby said. “He made some really big saves throughout the game, a breakaway and some loose pucks around the net. Off that breakaway he ended up stopping a couple right after.”

“Outstanding,” was Bylsma’s overall assessment of Fleury’s game. “There were some good scoring chances, the breakaway from Asham and Van Riemsdyk after that had a very good chance. There were some flurries as well. They had some good opportunities. He was challenging. He was very good.”

But perhaps Fleury’s most impressive save came in the opening frame. After making a sprawling save, Fleury fell on his back. Philadelphia sniper Jeff Carter had the entire net to shoot at but Fleury reached up at the last second and gloved Carter’s attempt.

“It was off a rebound,” Fleury said. “The guys kept banging at it. I don’t why I fell and the puck came up so I reached up.”

Fleury’s performance against Philadelphia has only been the latest in a long list of outstanding performances from the 25-year-old netminder. Fleury has posted a 9-1-1 record, 1.88 goal-against average and .925 save percentage in his last 11 starts.

Fleury now ranks second in the league with 20 victories and helped the Penguins finish 2-0 against division/cross-state rival Philadelphia in the home-and-home showdown.

“There have been games this year where he’s been real sharp, controlling rebounds, making saves, challenging shooters, being really strong in the scrum situations,” Bylsma said. “He had that aggressiveness and that confidence. He was challenging, really good on rebounds and tough situations. He was there. Tonight was one of those nights where he was on his game.”
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