The crowd at CONSOL Energy Center chanted the name of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on Monday as he removed his hat, put on his helmet and skated to the net with 3:29 left in the first period of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final between Pittsburgh and Boston.
Fleury entered the game to relieve Tomas Vokoun, who had allowed three goals on 12 shots (two the result of turnovers by his teammates and one off a backdoor play created by pretty passing) in his ninth straight start this postseason.
Fleury allowed three goals on 17 shots in what ended up being a 6-1 Penguins loss, his first career playoff relief appearance and his first game action in nearly a month, as he last played May 7 in Game 4 of Pittsburgh’s first-round series against the New York Islanders.
Bylsma did not say who would be his goaltender for Game 3, saying it was “tough” to evaluate how both Fleury and Vokoun played given the way the team performed in front of them.
“We got down 3-0. I don’t think there’s a lot of fault in those three goals by the goaltender,” Bylsma said. “It’s tough to evaluate given the breakdowns and the types of scoring chances that they scored on for both goalies.”
But Bylsma did say this:
“Everyone we put on the ice for Game 3 is going to be giving us the best chance to win the hockey game.”
Vokoun was not surprised that the change was made.
“I’m sure the coaches wanted to change the momentum,” Vokoun said. “I didn’t feel they were bad goals, but you are there to stop the puck and when you’re not stopping it, they’re going to make the change. It’s part of being a goalie, sometimes that happens.”
Fleury, who has been Pittsburgh’s starting goalie since the 2005-06 season, has been doing his best to stay sharp in practice. All NHL goalies learn how to stay both physically and mentally sharp when they’re serving as a backup, since no netminder can play every single game of every single season. That being said, the postseason is a totally different animal than the regular season, and it’s a tough situation to go into a playoff game cold.
“It felt a little bit rusty, you know? It’s been a while,” he said. “To jump right into a playoff game is a little bit different than practice, but it doesn’t matter if it’s me or ‘Voky,’ it’s disappointing to lose that game, for sure.”