One minute, 36 seconds.
That’s all the time that separated Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury
from the ending that every goalie covets – a shutout.
He came as close as one can get, putting forth an outstanding effort – arguably his best so far this season – in Pittsburgh’s 3-1 victory over Montreal on Thursday, finishing with 27 saves.
“It seems to not come around too often, you know? So I was kind of hoping for it,” Fleury admitted following the game. “But (the goal) happened. We still got the win. That’s all that matters.”
Montreal’s Brian Gionta would be the one to break the goose egg with a re-direct that would have solved any goalie. So while Fleury may not have officially earned a whitewashing, he sure earned it in spirit.
“It was kind of a weird deflection there off the guy’s shaft between his hands – just kind of nothing you can do about that,” defenseman Brooks Orpik
said. “It was disappointing, because he played so well.”
Fleury’s great play was the backbone of an excellent overall showing by the Penguins in front of their home crowd.
Pittsburgh came out flying from the drop of the puck – throwing 16 shots to the net in the first period alone – and seemed to dictate the pace and the tempo against a skilled, speedy Canadiens squad for the full 60 minutes.
“We’re playing good hockey,” said forward Arron Asham
, who played in his 700th career NHL game. “We had a couple letdowns, but we stuck to our game plan. We got the pucks deep when we were supposed to, we got our forecheck going and we wore their D men down. You could tell as the game progressed that we just had a lot of offensive zone time in there. That’s tough to play against.”
Both the players and head coach Dan Bylsma cited Tuesday’s 4-2 victory over Minnesota, another total team effort which ended a three-game winless streak, as their building block heading into tonight.
“We played well in Minnesota and I think we picked up some momentum and some belief in our team,” said forward Joe Vitale
, who scored his first goal of the season in the contest.
“We wanted to back the Minnesota game up with another good performance and it started with the first period. I thought the guys came out really good and we just built up momentum for the rest of the game.”
Added Bylsma, “Getting that win, getting that team win and the way we won it, I think was a big show of leadership from our group and the key guys in that room. I think that we built on tonight. After that win, there was a little bit more jump in our step heading into this game. This game was a better-played game by our team.”