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Fleury enjoying the moment in playoff run

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

When Marc-Andre Fleury led the Pens onto the ice for Game 1 of Pittsburgh's opening-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the ovation he received from the crowd was one of the best moments in the history of PPG Paints Arena.

But the atmosphere in the building shortly before Fleury followed his team off the ice after their Game 5 win to close out the series might have been even better.

With just over a minute-and-a-half remaining and the Pens holding a 5-2 lead (which would stand as the final score), the crowd began organically chanting the name of their fan-favorite, franchise netminder so loudly it felt like the roof was going to explode.


It was such a cool scene, capping off a playoff performance that Fleury will look back on as one of his favorites. And it's one that will stand in the record books, as it was the 57th playoff win of his career - establishing a new franchise record.

"This was up there," Fleury said. "To be here at home in front of our fans and be able to get that win with the support that they gave me throughout the season, throughout all these years - still get butterflies and goosebumps when you hear the crowd chant. I'm happy I was able to contribute and get that win here tonight."

For Fleury, contributing really meant standing on his head. He faced 51 shots, which in itself would be a lot to handle just in terms of sheer workload. His 49 saves set a career high for a regulation postseason game.

But it wasn't just about quantity of shots. It was about quality of scoring chances. Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said after the game he felt his team had more than 30 scoring chances, the majority of which were Grade A.

And they began creating them from the drop of the puck. The Jackets' biggest pushes came in the opening minutes, where they outshot the Pens 8-1; at the end of the first; the end of the second; and for the entirety of the third.

"He was under a lot of pressure there throughout the whole night," captain Sidney Crosby said after the game. "There were different points throughout the whole game. He was solid. He had to make a ton of huge saves. They weren't necessarily routine either. He was tested a lot.

"We don't like to have to make him work that hard, but he was our best player tonight."

Those high-quality chances came in different forms. At times, the Jackets were able to get a player in alone on Fleury. But most times, they just tried to throw shots at the net and always had players there trying to poke it and get it in. In those situations, Fleury said the biggest thing was for him to find the puck.

"They always had somebody around and if I can see it leave the guy's stick I get a better chance at knowing where it's going at and being in the right spot," he said.

But of course, Fleury deflected credit to his teammates as well for the way they helped him out around the net.

"They made some saves for me, they cleared guys away from the puck and that's why we had good battles in there and were able to keep the puck out," he said. "Even the forwards, they blocked a lot of shots for me too, so it was a big help."

The game was, as Mike Sullivan put it after the game, an emotional rollercoaster. But as the coach always preaches, staying in the moment is crucial - and that's exactly what Fleury is trying to do.

"Just try to go one game at a time, enjoy it," Fleury said. "I think once you get older you realize you never know what's coming for you. Try to enjoy every moment you have here.

"We have a great team, we have great fans, it's a fun place to play. I just try to embrace it and enjoy the moment."

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