Thursday night’s 6-2 win over the New Jersey Devils was a relief for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After losing their last four games by one goal, they were able to get into the win column finally for the first time in seven games.
A victory is a great reward for a team adjusting to new head coach Michel Therrien’s system. However, it was a huge boost for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury, the 2003 first-overall pick, has been brilliant in net all season, but he reaped the ultimate reward for any goaltender Thursday night – a victory.
“The last couple games we have been losing by one goal,” he said. “I think the guys played hard and it was good to see this win happen.”
Fleury stopped 44 of 46 Devils shots and made several acrobatic and jaw-dropping saves. It was the first win for the Penguins – and Fleury – since a 4-3 triumph over Colorado on Dec. 10.
“We’d like to get him a little less work than that, but to see how he responds is unbelievable. He’s a great goalie,” Penguins rookie center Sidney Crosby said. “It’s nice to get him a win. He definitely deserves it. He hasn’t been rewarded with a lot of wins; he probably deserves a lot more with the job he is doing. It was nice to get him a win here and have everyone chip in and get the win.”
The Penguins raced to a 4-0 lead in the first 27 minutes. Sure, a huge lead is great for any goaltender, but it didn’t give Fleury a chance to rest since New Jersey’s desperation level soared.
“It’s a tough league to have a four-goal lead in because sometimes you lose your concentration and the other team is taking a lot of chances. They got a lot of shots. We wanted to keep them on the outside as much as we could,” Therrien said. “A lot of those shots were from the outside. A four-goal lead is a tough lead because there are times when the concentration is not always there and the other team doesn’t play the same way – they are cheating a lot to the offense. Because they are cheating a lot to the offense, they are taking a lot of risks.
“Marc-Andre was phenomenal,” he continued. “We capitalized on our chances and did a lot of good things. Finally, we were able to build on the positive even though there were times when it was frustrating.”
The Penguins were penalized eight times, including a pair of five-on-threes. New Jersey scored on the first one when Scott Gomez, who scored both Devils goals, banged in his own rebound, but Fleury stoned the Devils on the other two-man advantage in the third period.
Among the highlights of the evening, Fleury stopped a shorthanded breakaway in the first period, snared 21 of 22 shots in the second and made a full-extension glove save along the goal line in the third period.
“When they get those chances, you’re watching and sometimes you’re a little nervous, but with him, you see him make so many good ones,” Crosby said. “It’s not a knock against him, but it’s just like every day he makes so many good saves. He’s just that good. I don’t know if I want to say it’s fun to watch him make save after save like that because we don’t want to put pressure on him, but it’s definitely amazing to see how quick he is. He has fun in there and that’s the way it needs to be. He battles hard and has fun. You see him sometimes smile after a sequence of a few shots. It’s great. It’s awesome.”
Fleury’s acrobatics and lightning-quick reflexes drew many cheers from the crowd and chants of “FLEUR-EE! FLEUR-EE! FLEUR-EE!” throughout the night. He received a thunderous reception from the crowd when he was announced as the game’s first star at the conclusion of the contest.
“When you hear the crowd like that, you get those goose bumps,” he said. “I think that’s why I love so much to play.”