Fleury keeps Penguins chugging
The Flower has come into bloom again.
So have his Penguins.
Marc-Andre Fleury stole the show with a mesmerizing performance Friday night as the Penguins defeated the Flyers, 3-2, to force Game 6 Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia.
What was the difference for Fleury, who had allowed 21 goals through the first four games of this series?
"About 30 less goals in two periods," Fleury said.
This series will never be noteworthy for its strong goaltending, but Fleury's performance in the third period ranks among the finest a netminder has produced in a Penguins' uniform.
"There was a little bit of action there," Fleury said.
There was some serious action in between the Penguins' pipes, too.
"He's been our guy," left wing Matt Cooke said. "He'll be our guy. We've got the utmost confidence in him."
Fleury, who struggled mightily during the first four games of this series, has been a different goaltender since the second period of Game 2. He has only allowed two goals in his past five periods, both on the power play.
But it was a power play he snuffed last night that will be remembered for some time.
Right wing Tyler Kennedy took a penalty at 7:23 of the third period. At that point, the Flyers had scored on 11 of 19 opportunities on the power play in the series.
The Penguins' penalty killing unit did little to prevent the Flyers from scoring with Kennedy in the box. Fleury, however, made no less than five brilliant saves. At every whistle, the crowd at Consol Energy Center rose to its feet with the most thunderous roars the two-year old building has produced.
"He just stood on his head," defenseman Kris Letang said. "He was unbelievable. He was on top of his game."
During the Flyers' power play, Fleury made two stunning saves on center Danny Briere. He also brought the crowd to its feet with a save on left wing Scott Hartnell.
On two other occasions during the power play, the Flyers appeared to have an open net. Then, Fleury appeared out of nowhere to make the save.
Letang wasn't sure which save was the most impressive.
"The two on Briere," Letang said. "Or maybe it was three• I don't even know. Then there was the one on Hartnell. Wow. Unbelievable. It looked like the cage was empty at times, but then he keeps sticking his pads out and making saves."
Many of the Flyers players acknowledged that Fleury was the difference.
"Fleury played well tonight," Hartnell said. "It looks like he's getting hot. So it's going to be that much harder."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he was pleased with the offense his team generated.
"We just weren't able to get one past their goalie."
At some point during that final period, Fleury's exceptional play left everyone with little doubt that he wouldn't be beaten during the final 20 minutes.
"Yes," center Sidney Crosby said. "He was on. We knew that. You never know, but when he's playing like that, you get pretty confident that he's going to shut the door. We don't like seeing him tested that often, but he was there. He was huge tonight."
The Penguins were hardly perfect. Led by Evgeni Malkin, they took undisciplined penalties again. And, again, they struggled killing penalties, as the Flyers buried two more power-play goals.
But unlike earlier in the series, Fleury was there to save his teammates.
Even when a goal seemed imminent, Fleury provided theatrics.
"We have complete faith in him," said Kennedy, who scored the game-winning goal. "It's good to see him back on his game."