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Fleury shines in Pens' victory

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

It took two late third-period goals for the Pens to pull off a 4-2 victory against the New York Islanders on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena.

But the real man to thank for the win was Marc-Andre Fleury.

To say that Fleury stole this win for the Pens wouldn't be giving him enough credit. But don't take my word for it. Just ask the team.  

Head coach Mike Sullivan: "He was terrific, especially in that second period. We were under a lot of pressure and on our heels and he made some huge saves for us."

Captain Sidney Crosby: "He kept us in the game all night."

Phil Kessel: "You watch him out there, he's been unbelievable for us this year. He obviously kept us in the game and we were able to reward him." 

Patric Hornqvist: "He's a great goaltender. He saved us a lot, especially early last season. He's been good every time he's in the net and obviously he's got a lot of confidence with his eighth straight start. He's playing great for us and it's fun to watch."

Ian Cole: "Flower's very much been that all-star goaltender that he's been for 10, 11, 12 years now. Watching the way he's played recently, it's certainly very special--the way he's been playing and keeping us in games when we haven't played our best hockey in some stretches of time."

And on and on and on.

In fact, Fleury was so good that every time it appeared that he made the "save of the game," he would follow that with an even better stop. It's hard to say which was his best stop:

-Maybe the blocker stop on Josh Bailey in the first period.

-Or forcing Shane Prince to hit the post on a breakaway.

-Or stoning Anders Lee from atop the crease.

-Or coming from post-to-post to deny Ryan Strome.

-Or another ridiculous stop on Prince from in the slot.

Fleury was under a lot of pressure, especially in the first two periods of the game. He made 31 saves through two periods, and was able to keep it a 1-1 game.

"There were a lot of shots. I was just trying to keep the score close and our team ahead," Fleury said. "I know with the guys we have here we can always come back in a game and win it. If I can keep it tight and do my job, they'll help me out after."

When I asked Fleury if he likes seeing a lot of shots because it allows him to get into a rhythm he countered with a joke.

"Maybe to have less scoring chances would be good too," Fleury smiled. "The guys are trying hard. I just tried to help them out."

Fleury's only blemish came in the third period when a fluky power-play goal for the Islanders allowed them to tie the game at 2-2. A rimmed puck caromed off of the glass behind the net. Fleury left his crease to play the puck, but after the awkward bounce the puck ended up in front of the net.

Fleury could only stretch out his stick as Shane Prince tapped in an empty-netter to even the score. But the Pens responded 1:57-minutes later when Crosby scored to regain the lead for Pittsburgh.

Fleury was still shaking his head about the unfortunate way the play unfolded.

"I felt bad. I shouldn't have come out at the end on the PK," Fleury said. "The puck hit the glass and came back in front. I felt bad because I should have just stayed in net and it would have been fine. I was happy to see 'Sid' bury that one for sure."

The Pens have been riding their goaltender all season. He's played in all eight contests for the team, including on back-to-back nights, and has been his best in front of the Pittsburgh crowd.

Fleury improved to 5-0-1 at PPG Paints Arena, and has allowed two goals or fewer in five of his six home contests. He was once again brilliant when the team needed him most. 

"It's a team game," Fleury said. "I need to pull my weight when I need to."

Tonight, Fleury certainly pulled his weight.   

Video: Fleury's big saves during tonight's game

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