Fleury sensational in goal, but Penguins fall again to Blackhawks
CHICAGO — On Wednesday afternoon, Marc-Andre Fleury found out he had not been selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game.
That's OK. He saw plenty of scoring chances against and questionable defense in front of him, longtime staples of All-Star action, on Wednesday night.
Artemi Panarin scored his second goal of the game with 11:04 left in the third period, leading the Chicago Blackhawks to a decisive 3-1 victory that was only close because of a brilliant, 34-save performance from Fleury.
“He was tremendous,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “It's a shame because he held us in there. He gave us a chance to win, and we weren't good enough in front of him.”
Chicago's dominance was established shortly after the puck dropped. They outshot the Penguins, 15-3, in the first period and took a 1-0 lead on Panarin's first goal.
The 24-year-old Calder Trophy favorite picked up a puck in the right-wing corner, wheeled all the way around to the top of the left faceoff circle and fired a shot inside the near post at 15:58.
“He's obviously a very gifted player,” Sullivan said of Panarin, who also scored twice in a 3-2 Blackhawks overtime victory at Consol Energy Center the night before.
Chicago's lead could have been three or four times as big if not for Fleury. Among his stops in the period was a save on an Andrew Shaw breakaway.
Sullivan called it perhaps the worst period the Penguins had played since he took over as coach Dec. 14.
“I think we were just watching too much,” Sidney Crosby said. “(Tuesday) night, we had that mentality of dictating the play. At the start of the first there, we were just sitting back and watching. Give these guys time and space and it's going to be a long night.”
Improbably, the Penguins tied the score 1-1 in the second. Operating on an abbreviated, 87-second power play — their only power play of the first two periods — Evgeni Malkin scored on a one-timer from the blue line past Crosby's stick and Patric Hornqvist's body.
Later in the period, Fleury made his most dramatic stops of the night. He shrugged his left shoulder to stop Patrick Kane after a shake-and-bake move out of the corner and then made a nearly impossible stop on a Trevor van Riemsdyk shot from the slot with the knob of his stick.
“I was just trying to get something there,” Fleury said. “I was lucky obviously to get a piece of it.”
Despite being outshot 25-11 through two periods, the Penguins were in the game entering the third.
“We had the chance to maybe steal one here,” Crosby said.
The Penguins had a pair of power plays in the third period and Crosby hit a post with a redirection with less than six minutes left, but largely, the Blackhawks dominated the final period as much as they did the previous two.
On the winning goal, Panarin picked up a loose puck off a faceoff and whipped it past Fleury to break a 1-1 tie.
“He's got a good shot, a good release,” Fleury said. “He shoots hard.”
With the loss, the Penguins fell to 1-6-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.
“I haven't been here long enough to really address it quite honestly,” Sullivan said. “For me, back-to-backs is about a mindset. It's about finding ways to win. Chicago was in the same situation we were.”