The NHL’s latest commercials like to tell us that “History Will Be Made” in the playoffs. But history was made at CONSOL Energy Center on Sunday afternoon.
In addition to the Penguins winning an NHL record fourth-consecutive shootout contest, Marc-Andre Fleury
also broke the team record for longest shutout sequence in a 2-1 shootout win against the Florida Panthers.
FLOWER PEDALS TO THE HISTORY BOOKS
Prior to Sunday’s contest, the Penguins held their team awards ceremony. The Most Valuable Player award went to Marc-Andre Fleury
“It was nice, I wasn’t really expecting that,” Fleury said. “It’s a great thing to have. But I tried to just put it aside, and get two points to win the game.”
Not only did Fleury win the game, but he also set a franchise record in the process. Fleury went 150:14 seconds without allowing a goal. The streak spanned from Philadelphia’s Mike Richards’ first-period goal against the Penguins on Thursday through a complete-game shutout against New Jersey on Friday until Florida’s Ryan Carter scored in the second period on Sunday.RELATED: Aftermath: Penguins 2, Panthers 1 (SO) >>
Of course, the modest Fleury didn’t even realize he broke the record – which Jocelyn Thibault previously held with a 136:13 shutout sequence.
“(Records and awards) are fun, definitely,” Fleury said. “But we all work hard all season and practice a lot. And at the end of the day, it’s the game that matters, and we got the win and the two points.”
While Fleury is reluctant to talk about himself, his teammates were more than happy to praise the Penguins netminder.
“Every night he’s there to break up a two-on-one, three-on-one or make that big back-door save or big glove-save,” James Neal
said. “Ever since I got here, that’s all I’ve seen.”
In fact, many people in the Penguins organization think Fleury has kick-saved his way into the conversation of NHL’s best goalie.
“We’ve had two superstars go down, and he’s taken over for both of them and really carried us,” Ben Lovejoy
said. “He’s unbelievable. If he doesn’t win the Vezina, he should win the league MVP.”
“A lot of our wins have been not only because of the way he’s played but because of the confidence that he’s giving our team,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’s been outstanding for long periods of time. He’s always been the guy to have the dramatic big saves. But I’m not sure he’s ever played this consistently for this long a period of time.
“Given our injury situation and given the year that we’ve had… I think he’s our MVP and I think he deserves to be mentioned for league MVP with his play this year.”
His stats back that up. After his 37-save performance on Sunday, he’s 34-18-5 on the year, and over his past 50 starts, Fleury has allowed two or fewer goals 33 times. SHOOTOUT SUCCESS
Sunday’s game marked the Penguins’ fourth-consecutive contest that extended past overtime and into the shootout period. Thanks to Marc-Andre Fleury
’s brilliance in net and two of Pittsburgh’s recent acquisitions, the Penguins set an NHL record for most shootout wins in a row with four.
“It feels like ever since I’ve got here, all we’ve done is gone to overtime,” Neal said. “It’s just the way the pucks have been bouncing for us.”
Neal is a major reason for the Penguins’ success in shootouts. In these four games, Neal scored three times on the shootout. Two of those tallies were game-deciding goals, while Sunday’s sealed the victory.
But both Neal and Kovalev have stated that it’s easier for the guys who go later in the shootouts. RELATED: Pens' Shootout Mentality >>
“I’m just doing what I see,” Kovalev said. “I’m going second. Some of the goalies I know, some of the goalies I have a chance to see (Kris Letang
) go out against first. I just kind of read off the goalie.
“Tonight, I just saw Tanger go out first and how the goalie reacted on him. I just kind of came up with a move, and I knew it was going to work.”
Ideally, though, the Penguins would like to avoid overtime and shootouts, but sudden-victory periods can build a team’s confidence.
“We don’t want to put ourselves in that situation every night, but it just seems that’s the way it’s been,” Neal said. “We’re a confident team, so if it takes a shootout for us to win games, then we’ll do that.”
Fleury has certainly helped out, stopping all but one shooter in the past three shootouts. Kovalev would like to return the favor, though.
“Hopefully, we’ll help him out a bit and get some goals for him to win in regulation instead of putting pressure on him in shootouts,” Kovalev said.
Fleury doesn’t mind that he’s lifted his team on his back, though. The only thing breaking under the pressure is records.