Martin Brodeur. Terry Sawchuck. Marc-Andre Fleury.
With the Penguins’ 3-2 overtime victory against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden Monday night, Fleury joined an elite group of goalies that have hit the 300-wins milestone.
Fleury (29 years, 361 days) is the third-youngest goaltender in NHL history to record 300 wins behind only Brodeur (29, 223 days) and Sawchuck (29 years, 323 days). Fleury is also the third-fastest goaltender to reach the mark, doing so in his 546th game (Jacques Plante, 521; Andy Moog, 543).
“That’s pretty cool,” Fleury said. “I’ve been fortunate to have good teammates and good teams. It was a little rough at the beginning when I first started, but our team kept improving. It’s cool to be there now.”
Fleury, who has played 11 seasons with the Penguins after the team drafted him first overall at the 2003 NHL Draft, became the 31st netminder in league history to hit the 300 mark – coming just a few days shy of his 30th birthday.
But it still feels like it was only yesterday that he was a wide-eyed 18-year-old making his NHL debut back in 2003.
“Crazy fast. It seems like I got drafted and had my first game not that long ago,” Fleury said. “What is it now? 11 years? Crazy, it just goes so fast.”
Most people remember Fleury’s first NHL start against the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 10, 2003 at Mellon Arena. He surrendered a goal (shorthanded) on his first shot against to Eric Belanger. But after that he made 46 saves, including a penalty shot stop on Esa Pirnes, en route to being named the game’s No. 1 star.
But the game that started it all was eight days later when the Penguins hosted the Detroit Red Wings. Fleury faced a roster featuring Hall of Famers Chris Chelios, Brett Hull, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, Dominik Hasek, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
Fleury made 31 saves and forward Rico Fata converted two goals and an assist to lift the Pens to a 4-3 victory, Fleury’s in the NHL. The first of 300 and couting.
“I remember Hasek was playing, so that was pretty cool,” Fleury said reflectively. “He’s a guy I grew up watching and really liked to watch. It was 4-3. Rico Fata had a big goal coming down the wing. It was pretty cool, a good feeling.”
Since that game Fleury has gone on to win 299 more games, a Stanley Cup in 2009, a gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games with Canada, team MVP in 2011 and named an NHL All-Star in 2011.
Fleury will likely go down in history as the greatest Penguins goaltender of all time. He’s the franchise leader in wins and shutouts (32 and counting).
While reaching 300 wins is an incredible career milestone, the humble Fleury is treating it like just another game.
“I won’t make a big deal about it,” Fleury said. “I’m proud. I’m happy. It’s pretty cool, but it’s two points in the standings. That’s all that matters.”