At the end of the Penguins’ 3-0 win over Tampa Bay in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the whiteout crowd at CONSOL Energy Center chanted “MVP! MVP!”
No, the cheers weren’t for Sidney Crosby
or Evgeni Malkin
as they had been in previous playoffs. This year, that MVP is Marc-Andre Fleury
. And after his 32-save shutout performance against the Lightning, the accolades were well warranted. The win marked his fifth postseason shutout.
“Fleury was outstanding, there was no question about it,” Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher said. “I still can’t believe he made some of those saves. He’s done it in the past, and it’s certainly going to be tough to beat him.”
“(The Lightning) could have been up by two or three if it wasn’t for Marc,” Brooks Orpik
Fleury made several incredible saves throughout the night, including snagging the puck out of the air, stopping fancy moves by the Lightning’s snipers, and even stopping a few with a little bit of blind instinct.
Even when Dominic Moore started celebrating that he beat Fleury’s five-hole, Fleury never gave up. And as it turns out Moore’s shot didn’t get as far as he originally thought.
When Moore got a wide-open chance on the doorstep, he raised his arms in celebration when he got the puck between Fleury’s legs, but Fleury stopped the puck before it got all the way through.
“I was looking for the puck for a little bit there,” Fleury said. “At the last second, I thought it was behind me, so I just tried to do something I do in practice once in a while, and it worked out alright.”
Fleury rolled over and kicked the puck back out where Moore pushed it over into the crease, but Fleury batted it out of the way. Ryan Malone swooped in and tried a backhander, but Fleury – who was lying down at this point – kicked his leg in the air and made a third save.
Early in the second period, Tampa Bay’s potent power play was pressuring the Penguins’ penalty kill. The puck bounced right to Vincent Lecavalier, who twisted the puck between his legs in a dazzling display of skill to try to wrap the puck behind the netminder and into the twine. But Fleury’s arm robbed him of what would have been the go-ahead goal. Watch Fleury's stop on Lecavalier >>
“I was in hot water once again,” Fleury said. “That’s something I have to expect from good players. I just try to be patient and stop the puck.”
Fleury’s play never ceases to amaze his teammates.
“Flower comes up with those saves all the time, so it's unbelievable,” James Neal
said. “He battles for every puck, and no matter if he's out of position or not, he's going to try to make the save. And he comes up big every time. It's great to have a guy like that back there.”
While Fleury appreciates the praise, he just tries to stay focused on his main goal.
“I just try to stop the next puck,” he said.ORPIK SETS THE TONE
For the first time since Pittsburgh acquired Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
, the Penguins played a postseason game without both superstars. Pittsburgh also consists of a relatively young lineup, so the team needed to find some veteran leadership for their first game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Enter Brooks Orpik
. And he made quite an entrance.
After an unbelievably raucous crowd pumped up the Penguins during the pre-game introductions, Orpik laid a huge hit on Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos less than two minutes into the game. Watch Orpik's hit on Stamkos >>
“It was just one of those things where you don’t go looking for it, but it was a good opportunity,” Orpik said. “I didn’t have to run out of position for it, I was just lucky that it happened that quickly.”
Orpik has led the Penguins defensive corps through four straight playoffs, charging all the way to the Stanley Cup Final two straight years in 2008 and 2009. So when the rest of the Penguins saw his thunderous hit early in the game, the team followed suit. By the end of the first period, the Penguins had dished out 17 hits against the Lightning.
“Right off the hop, Brooks Orpik
set the tone with a big hit,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We had a number of times in the first where we were physical, and we were physical throughout the game.”
“Brooksy hit Stamkos hard there the first couple of shifts and gets the crowd into it,” Neal said. “What a building to play in front of with the whiteout and them going crazy.”
Orpik finished with a team-leading seven hits of the Penguins’ 44.