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Fleury Sharp Again, But Penguins Fall 5-2

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
CHICAGO – You knew the Penguins’ perfect preseason record probably wasn’t going to last forever, and with several of the team’s big guns – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Mike Comrie and Brooks Orpik – all sitting out on Friday night, the Penguins finally did suffer defeat for the first time in the 2010-11 preseason.

Chicago, which played most of the core from last season’s Stanley Cup championship team, defeated Pittsburgh 5-2.

Pittsburgh was able to make things interesting down the stretch, scoring twice in the third period on goals by Alex Goligoski and Craig Adams.

Goligoski, who finished with a goal and an assist, got the Penguins on the board at 10:40 of the third period when he fired a rebound into the cage behind Chicago’s Corey Crawford for the power-play marker. Adams added a late tally at 18:42 when he beat Crawford from the bottom of the right circle.

“I felt pretty good today,” Goligoski said. “I was able to make some good plays out there.”

Despite not having all of their regulars, the Penguins were able to put up a pretty spirited effort against the Hawks, particularly in the first 30 minutes of the game, outshooting the Blackhawks overall by a 28-26 count.

“The first half of the game I thought we did some good things,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “There were parts of our game where I thought we were at our best during the preseason so far. I think once we got behind I think we were looking a little bit to make a cuter play … it wasn’t our best last 30 minutes of hockey.”

Marc-Andre Fleury was solid once again between the pipes, denying 14 of 16 shots through 40 minutes of action. Brent Johnson relieved Fleury prior to the third period.

Fleury has now stopped 66 of 70 shots through three exhibition games for a gaudy .943 save percentage.

“I think it is good to get some action and face the types of players you are going to see during the regular season,” Fleury said. “It was nice to make some saves. I didn’t like getting scored on twice, but it was a good effort. I have one more game to continue working on it.”

Some of Fleury’s best work on the evening came against Chicago’s brightest sharpshooters.

At the 8:25 mark of the first period, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had the puck squirt to his blade with no Penguins defenders around and Fleury lying on the ice prone in a forward snow angel position. Everyone in the United Center figured Toews’ shot would end up in the back of the cage, but the quick glove hand of Fleury prevented that.

Later, within the first minute of the second period, Fleury made a stick/blocker combination save on Patrick Kane’s two-on-one shot, and then seconds later stoned Toews again by going down into the butterfly position to deny his drive from 20 feet.

Chicago struck first and broke a scoreless contest on a pretty passing sequence 4:20 into the second period.

David Bolland led a three-on-two rush into the Pittsburgh zone before dishing to Bryan Bickell in the middle of the ice. Bickell moved the puck over to Fernando Pisani in the right circle, and his snap shot off a one-timer went off the glove of Fleury and jumped into the cage for a 1-0 Chicago lead.

Patrick Sharp improved that lead to 2-0 at the 13:47 mark when he scored an unassisted goal on a slap shot through a screen from the right point.

Former Penguins forward Marian Hossa added a pair of tallies in the third period, sandwiched around a Kane power-play marker at 5:56.

“They are the Stanley Cup champs and they are tough in this building,” Goligoski said. “They held onto the puck and did a pretty good job of getting to their game tonight.”

Pittsburgh concludes preseason action on Sunday afternoon when they visit the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena for a 5 p.m. faceoff.

Asham Leaves Early

The Penguins played most of the night on Friday without the services of forward Arron Asham, who played just 1:33 minutes and two shifts against the Blackhawks before leaving with an upper-body injury.

Bylsma said after the game that he doesn’t expect Asham’s injury to be anything long-term, but the Penguins forward will be re-evaluated on Saturday.

“He is going to be re-evaluated,” Bylsma said. “We’ll have to wait and see what they say on Saturday.”

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