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Fleury shines off the bench

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens' first period against the Buffalo Sabres was not pretty.

In fact, when asked what he didn't like about the first period, head coach Mike Sullivan said, "I didn't like anything."

The Pens trailed 3-0 in the contest and needed a spark.

Enter Marc-Andre Fleury.

The franchise's all-time winning goaltender entered the game in the second period to a cacophonous chant of his name, and went on to stop all 28 shots he faced as Pittsburgh rallied for a 4-3 come-from-behind victory at PPG Paints Arena Sunday night.

"It was fun," Fleury said in the locker room after the game. "The team played a lot better in the second and third so that helped me out, definitely. The support when I came back on the ice at the beginning of the second from the fans and at the end again, they're good to me, all my career in Pittsburgh. It's fun to play here. It's fun to win here too."

Winning seemed a far chance for the Pens following the opening 20 minutes. Goaltender Matt Murray surrendered three goals on 21 shots, though it was not entirely his fault.

Nonetheless, the Pens decided to make a change. 

"Sometimes you make a switch like that and it is about the whole group, not just about any one guy," Sullivan said. "That was the logic from the coaching staff standpoint when we did make the switch."

Fleury was notified during the first intermission that he would be taking over in the crease to start the second frame. It gave him some time to go to the team's shooting room, stretch, and take a few shots from his Quebec brethren Kris Letang.

"I started moving around getting the blood flowing, caught a few pucks," Fleury said.

Fleury knew that with the Pens' firepower on offense the team can never be counted out of a game. But a 3-0 deficit is a steep hole from which to climb. Fleury knew that for the team to win, he would have to be perfect.

"I was just thinking of keeping us in the game and I was confident that we could come back," he said.

The Pens got on the board at the 7:45 mark of the second period when Justin Schultz scored his career-best 11th of the season to cut the Sabres' lead to 3-1.

But seconds later, Buffalo star Evander Kane took a pass for a breakaway. The only thing standing between Buffalo and another three-goal lead was No. 29 in the net.

Kane deked and tried to go blocker side, but Fleury did a split and was able to get his pad on the shot to keep it a 3-1 game in what turned out to be a pivotal turning point.

"He's a guy with a very good shot. I was thinking he would shoot," Fleury said. "I just tried to be patient as long as I could. He went around me and I had to scramble a little bit to get to the post."

That was one of many fantastic saves from Fleury. And his performance was noted by his teammates.

"He was phenomenal," Phil Kessel said. "He made so many big saves for us tonight. Like I said, he shut the door. He gave us a chance."

And the Pens made the most with that chance, scoring four unanswered goals with Conor Sheary completing the rally with the winning tally with just 2:56 left in regulation.

Pittsburgh was shorthanded for the final 1:51 of the game and Fleury was forced to make several more key saves, including a few scramblers. At the end of it all, he made every save.

"Marc did a terrific job. That is not an easy challenge for a goaltender, but I thought he was locked in," Sullivan said. "He made some big saves for us, especially in that third period."

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