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Fleury makes 40 saves, Malkin and Bonino score as Penguins win in shootout

| Saturday, March 11, 2017
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The Oilers' Zack Kassian jumps in front of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on March 10, 2017 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.

EDMONTON — The Sidney Crosby-Connor McDavid showdown lived up to its billing, but Marc-Andre Fleury might have stolen the show for the Penguins on Friday night at Rogers Place.

The veteran goaltender made 40 saves, including one on a McDavid breakaway in overtime to help the Penguins take a 3-2 shootout victory.

Phil Kessel scored the shootout winner, and Nick Bonino and Evgeni Malkin scored in regulation for the Penguins. Trade-deadline acquisition David Desharnais scored his first goal as an Oiler, and McDavid also scored.

The Oilers want to mold their team into what the Penguins are. The young upstart Oilers are poised to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons and put up a fight against the Stanley Cup champions, but the Penguins' experience showed in the victory.

“They played hard tonight,” Crosby said. “They're a playoff team, and they've had success this year for a reason. We know that playing other teams, we're going to get their best and we have to compete every night.”

Bonino and Malkin have been red-hot of late, combining for 10 goals and five assists in their last four games.

Bonino's 13th goal of the season and fourth in two games and Malkin's 32nd goal of the season gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead after a first period in which they outshot Edmonton, 13-8.

Bonino caught Cam Talbot out of position on the first goal at the 5:42 mark, and Malkin's goal late in the opening frame is one Talbot would like to have back. Malkin's blast squeaked through his pads, and in a mad flurry trying to swipe the puck away in the crease, McDavid kicked it in his own net.

In the final 40 minutes and overtime, Fleury made 32 saves.

“It was one after another with some of the saves he made, and they weren't easy ones. They had some clean looks, some breakaways ... he was incredible tonight,” Crosby said. “It's fun to see him when he gets that mindset that he's having fun out there. We made it tough on him, but he was great.”

The Oilers cut the lead in half with Desharnais' marker early in the second period and tied it with 7:15 left in the game thanks to McDavid's power-play goal.

Fleury made a great save off the initial shot that was deflected by Zach Kassian but was unable to stop Desharnais, who was in perfect position to pot his fifth goal of the year.

He had no chance on McDavid's marker, a perfect top-corner shot. McDavid was buzzing all night, leading all skaters with nine shots on goal.

But the Penguins, who are banged up on the blue line, received some gritty efforts from their defensive corps and Fleury stood tall when they needed him most.

It was an entertaining overtime, with the goalies stealing the spotlight — particularly Fleury, who showed great patience on a McDavid breakaway, and followed it up with an incredible toe save against Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the dying moments.

“I just tried to stay patient. (McDavid) has great hands ... I already poke-checked him once, and I just had to wait for him to make his move and it worked out,” said Fleury, who earned his 17th victory of the season. “It was entertaining. They're good players, lots of skills, and you have to be ready for these guys. It was to make those saves.

“I just tried to cut their space away a little bit, but my guys did a great job blocking shots and cleaning out rebounds.”

Jason Hill is a freelance writer.

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