It wasn’t easy.
But Marc-Andre Fleury really didn’t care.
Fleury stopped all 28 New Jersey Devils shot attempts, including a penalty shot in the third period from Adam Henrique, en route to career win No. 250 for the netminder and a 3-0 victory for the Penguins.
“I’m happy,” Fleury said. “I’m happy to get in there and get a win. It is a long season. We got this first one and now it’s done and I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Fleury, 28, recorded the 24th shutout of his career, and joined teammate Tomas Vokoun as one of nine active goaltenders to record 250 wins.
Fleury was tested more and more as the game progressed, with the penalty shot and a late power play resulting in a total of 12 third-period shots from the Devils. Fleury made all the big saves, and said he was impressed with how well the Penguins defensive group played in front of him.
Fleury's two biggest saves came in the final minutes of the third period. First, he stopped a shot by Travis Zajac. The puck went off the post and off Fleury's back off the post again before Fleury reached behind his back to glove the puck.
"I heard the post,” Fleury said. “I felt it on my back, and I just wanted to reach as quickly as possible. From watching the Pirates, I guess.”
With four minutes to play, Fleury had to make a split to get his pad on Adam Henrique's penalty shot to preserve the shutout.
“It seems the shutout doesn’t come too often and then you get the penalty shot at the end (laughs),” Fleury said. “The guys did a great job and helped me out, blocked some shots and covered the guys in front so it was a big help.”
Over the course of the last five regular seasons, Fleury has been the NHL’s winningest goaltender. Since 2008-09, Fleury has won 174 games and will certainly have the chance to build on that lead with backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun recovering from blood clot surgery for the next 3-6 months.
Head coach Dan Bylsma said after the game that this performance was expected somewhat from the 10-year veteran.
“I think early on in the game, there was not a lot of action for him and around him, but in the second period, they had a good period and started taking the play to us, and he had to make a couple big saves,” Bylsma said. “He has won a ton of hockey games, and we fully believe and expected him to do that for our team coming into the season. We are one-game deep and he was excellent tonight. He was tested late in the game and had to come up with a couple of big saves. I don’t think that game was not expected from Marc-Andre Fleury.”
If anyone had questions about the netminder’s performance after a disappointing postseason, Fleury answered them emphatically on Thursday.
“I felt good,” Fleury said. “We’ve been working hard through the summer and all of training camp. To get in the real game and get in there, the guys played great, couple good bounces here and there. It feels good.”