WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.”
Or was it The Pussycat Dolls who said that? Oh well, either way…
Capitals fans started chanting “We want Pittsburgh!” in the third period of their team’s 5-1 victory over New Jersey at Verizon Center Tuesday night.
They wanted the Pittsburgh and they got it.
Pittsburgh invaded the hostile Verizon Center Wednesday night for the matchup that the entire hockey world has been waiting for. And it was the Penguins that walked away from the debris with a 3-2 shootout victory.
With all the offensive firepower between the Penguins and Capitals, it’s ironically fitting that the best player on the ice was goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
Fleury made 32 saves in the game, but that doesn’t even tell the whole story. A lot of the shots Fleury faced were high quality, close-range scoring chances. And the goaltender had to be at the top of his game against a team loaded with talent.
“He was outstanding, sharp,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “On the penalty kill there were some point-blank (shots). Even some of the rushes and shooting through traffic, he was sharp.”
“I was feeling good tonight,” Fleury said.RELATED: Aftermath: Penguins 3, Capitals 2 >>
Fleury, who is now 15-1-1 in his last 17 starts, was particularly impressive in the first period, when he stopped all 12 shots he faced as the Penguins escaped with an early 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. He was stupid good while the Penguins were killing an early power play and two-man advantages.
Fleury stoned Nicklas Backstrom with a split pad save. He followed that with point-blank stops on Alex Ovechkin and two on Alexander Semin. The Penguins killed the five-on-three and Sidney Crosby
tallied seconds later for the opening goal.
“We had a lot of penalties, that’s where they got most of their chances and shots,” Fleury said. “We got out of it on a good note and was a good spark for the game.”
“He was making great saves against five of the best guys that you’ll face in a five-on-three,” defenseman Brooks Orpik
said. “I think our PK did a great job, but when he’s playing the way he was, that gives everybody else in front of him a lot of confidence.”
Fleury was similarly strong in the third period and overtime. He stopped Mathieu Perreault on a breakaway. Fleury then made the save of the season in the extra session. Mike Green made a sick move at the side of the net and had Fleury beat. But the 26-year-old netminder reached back with his glove and snatched the puck as it neared the goal line.
“The save on Green in overtime was outrageous,” Bylsma said.
Fleury surrendered only one goal in the shootout on the opening attempt by Ovechkin. Fleury stonewalled the remaining six shooters to set the table for Pascal Dupuis
’ game-deciding goal.
“First one went in so I was a little bit mad,” Fleury said. “Right away we got a big goal after that so I relaxed a little. It went alright.”
What also went alright was that the Penguins were able to get the better of their rivals in the first of four meetings this season, and the preliminary matchup to the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic.
And the team picked up two huge points in the standings. Thanks to their goaltender.
“This is as consistent as I’ve ever seen him play,” Orpik said. “He’s obviously got a boatload of talent. That’s the toughest thing to achieve in this league. You learn some nights you don’t feel as well as other nights. You just try to play as consistent as possible. That’s what he’s done all year.
“He was our best player by far all night.”