Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t sure if his glove save on Erik Karlsson in the third period of Monday’s game against Ottawa to keep it a tie game – which Pittsburgh went on to win in overtime, 2-1 – was the best one he’s ever made.
“I don’t know, the one off the back of my head in Calgary was unusual a little bit,” he pondered. “But at least this one I saw. Might be.”
Then he stopped and laughed, shaking his head about a save he forgot to mention – “Wait, no, no, it can’t be, no. Game 7, the Stanley Cup.”
His coach and teammates, however, disagreed.
“Yes, flat out,” head coach Dan Bylsma said when asked if it’s the greatest save he’s ever seen from Fleury. “The athleticism to get over there is one thing, the ability to get the glove up to the high right corner – he had to move to get it. It wasn't just sticking your glove out and Karlsson shot it into the glove. He made that save. I'm not sure I've ever seen another save live that's better than that.”
“That's the best one I've ever seen him make,” agreed forward James Neal, who scored the overtime winner – though he did mention the one against the Flames as well. “He's been doing that all year. He's an unbelievable goalie. He showed that. His consistency has been great all year. He just keeps getting better.”
On the play, Karlsson carried the puck into the zone and dropped to Clarke MacArthur. Four Penguins jumped on MacArthur and lost Karlsson, who sneaked into the slot. MacArthur made a cross-ice feed back to Karlsson, who ripped a one-timer shot perfectly marked for the top-right corner.
Fleury moved quickly off his left post and kept his pads and stick along the ice for a low shot. However, the shot came high and hot. As Fleury was falling forward he was able to track the puck’s trajectory and reached back with his glove into the air to snag the blistering puck.
“I knew I was in trouble because I saw the guy on my right had a little bit of time and he had some room to come to the net, so I thought he was maybe going to shoot,” Fleury explained. “But when he passed, I just tried to get my leg, my glove over there and just tried to stop it. Glad it went in the glove.”
Fleury said the key was not to give up on the play, even though it seemed hopeless to those of us watching – especially considering the NHL's highest-scoring defenseman and Norris Trophy winner the season before last had the puck on his stick. But to make it in this league, goaltenders can’t have that mindset.
“You don’t think you’re beat until it goes in, you know? Every goalie is like that,” he said. “But I knew I had my pad on the ice and my glove was in mid-air, so I’m just happy I caught it.”
Karlsson had arguably the most priceless reaction ever to being robbed. After watching Fleury reach back at an impossible angle and catch what he thought was a sure goal, the Senators defenseman literally dropped to his knees in disbelief, shook his head and laughed.
That’s how good the save was. He could not believe it.
The crowd couldn’t believe it either, roaring their support and giving their netminder a standing ovation. As the Pens players watched the replay on the bench, Chris Kunitz leaned over and started banging his glove on the boards to show his appreciation.
“It’s nice,” Fleury said of the reaction. “It doesn’t happen all the time, so it feels like you’re helping out doing something. It’s a good feeling when you’re a goalie. I guess if you’re a player and you score goals, and when you’re a goalie, if you make a good save, it feels good. It’s fun.”