PHILADELPHIA -- Winning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a team effort. You never want to rely too heavily on any individual this time of year, because one person simply can't carry a team for long stretches.
At the same time, there comes a point in every championship run where a hockey team's goaltender needs to steal a game.
For the Pittsburgh Penguins, that was Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Fleury was dominant, stopping 45 shots -- including all 16 on the Flyers' nine power plays -- as the Penguins earned a 3-1 victory in a game where they were out-shot, out-chanced and allowed the Flyers more power-play opportunities.
If you're going to have success in the playoffs, you need performances like that from your goaltender, and he certainly gave a memorable one tonight. - Dan Bylsma
"If you're going to have success in the playoffs," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said, "you need performances like that from your goaltender, and he certainly gave a memorable one tonight."
It was the most shots Fleury's seen in a playoff game outside of the triple-overtime thriller against the Red Wings in last year's Stanley Cup Final, and that night he made 55 saves -- nearly three extra periods of hockey to make 10 more saves.
"It makes the game go faster when you're busy," Fleury said.
If that's the case, Game 3 must have seemed like it moved in slow motion. The Flyers had two shots until the final six minutes of the first period, had seven in the game's opening frame and finished with 31. They scored six goals, though, including one into an empty net, leading the Flyers to believe they had Fleury figured out.
"Didn't work out too well," Fleury said with a smirk after his bravado Game 4 performance.
Those who know Fleury said they weren't surprised to see the netminder bounce back after a subpar performance.
"Flower (Fleury) is a real easy-going guy," defenseman Rob Scuderi told NHL.com. "For him to bounce back isn't really a surprise in here. He was upset with himself that night and that's OK, everyone's upset when they have a bad game. But as a professional, you have to learn how to shake it off and come back the next night even stronger, and he's done that. He certainly did that tonight."
Scuderi has seen more good games than bad from Fleury, and he has a huge sample size. The two have been teammates in the NHL and AHL since 2003.
"I think every single year I've played with Flower he's gotten a little bit better, and I would expect that from any NHL player," Scuderi said. "I've been with him five, six years now and each year I've been with him he's gotten a little bit better, and I would expect the same thing next year, which is a scary thought."
Fleury got some help from the pipes, but he had a quick glove, moved well side to side, and the constant traffic at the net never rattled him.
"There were a couple saves where the traffic was in front and the puck was going through the traffic, and he came up with his glove a couple times," Bylsma said. "From the bench, those are ones that sometimes find their way through, and he was rock solid on them every time. He gives you confidence in the suit, he gives you confidence in the uniform. And you need that from your goaltender."
The Penguins played better in front of Fleury, but it was far from their best effort.
"I think we made a lot of mistakes in front of him (in Game 3)," Matt Cooke
told NHL.com. "Even though they got some chances tonight and he made some huge saves, we didn't make as many blatant mistakes as we made in Game 3. That allows him to know where the shots are coming from."
That extra vision was apparent when he snared a rocket from the high slot by Simon Gagne moments after Sidney Crosby
's goal gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead. And after Tyler Kennedy
made it 2-0, he held strong on the post to deny Danny Briere.
His best save came with 12:54 left in the third. Jeff Carter -- who Fleury robbed with the save of the postseason in Game 2 -- was open at the side of the net. His shot popped in the air, hit off the crossbar and landed behind him, but on the right side of the goal line. Fleury flopped back and smothered the loose puck before it could trickle across or a Flyers stick could poke it away from him.
"I thought we did well tonight, except put pucks in the net," Flyers captain Mike Richards said. "We had so many chances. … We did a lot of good things on our power play except score."
The Penguins know they can't rely on any one player to carry them, but knowing their Flower is in full bloom this time of year is a comforting feeling.
Shortly after Sidney Crosby
scored Pittsburgh's first goal, the Flyers killed a penalty, blunting the Penguins' momentum, it seemed. Marc-Andre Fleury
made a great glove save on Simon Gagne's
shot in the slot from point-blank range. Matt Cooke
collected a pass from Hal Gill
on the left wing in the offensive zone, deked Flyers defenseman Randy Jones
and made a sharp pass through the slot to Tyler Kennedy
, who cut between Andrew Alberts and Claude Giroux
and fired a short, backhand shot past Flyers' goalie Marty Biron's glove side to make it 2-0. Kennedy made the cross-ice outlet pass from his zone to Gill to start the breakout.
is the runaway leader in this series with 22 hits. Orpik has been a big physical presence in front of his net, kills penalties and has been making excellent outlet passes.
The Flyers' line of Danny Briere
, Darroll Powe
and Claude Giroux
was the most effective in their Game 3 victory, but they were ineffective against the Penguins' line of Jordan Staal
, Matt Cooke
and Tyler Kennedy
in Game 4. Plus, Cooke and Kennedy combined for the Penguins' backbreaking second goal. Staal's line prevented the Flyers from scoring with seven seconds left in the power play midway through the third period.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma wasn't thinking in terms of rotating forward lines in the first period, instead seeking to get Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
more ice time. Crosby centered lines with wingers Malkin, Chris Kunitz
, Bill Guerin
, Pascal Dupuis
and Ruslan Fedotenko
. Malkin centered a line of Fedotenko and Petr Sykoa while playing on Crosby's right wing on several shifts.
The Flyers have to keep Sidney Crosby
from penetrating the middle of their defense. Easier said than done, it's his trademark skating pattern. Whether it's Crosby taking a head-man pass to split the defense at the offensive blue line or Crosby bearing down the slot to convert a pass, he's getting repeated opportunities in this series. The NHL has had four seasons to figure this out, but the Flyers have only two days or they're going home.