Penguins notebook: Fleury continues post-trade-deadline tear
A relaxed Marc-Andre Fleury is an effective Marc-Andre Fleury.
That's something the Florida Panthers found out Sunday when the 32-year-old goalie shut them out in a 4-0 Penguins victory at PPG Paints Arena.
Before the March 1 trade deadline, Fleury wasn't breathing easy because he didn't know for sure what jersey he would be wearing the rest of the season.
Since the deadline passed without Fleury being moved, he's 3-1-1 with a 1.67 goal-against average and .946 save percentage.
“It's been better,” Fleury said. “It's more relaxing. Those couple weeks were stressful. Didn't really know what to expect. I'm glad it's all behind, and we can focus on the last stretch of the season.”
His previous two starts, meanwhile, were nail-biters that ended in a shootout. On Sunday, the Penguins got Fleury a three-goal lead in the first two periods.
“It was good,” Fleury said. “I could be a little relaxed back there and enjoy the game.”
Fleury's shutout was the 44th of his career, moving him into a tie with Miikka Kiprusoff for 30th place on the NHL's all-time list. Fleury said he was honored to be keeping that kind of company, as he looked up to Kiprusoff when he was breaking into the league.
“It's great. We're so happy for him,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He's such a good person and a great pro and teammate. Both of those guys are just good people, both Marc and Matt. They make the most of not-an-easy situation from their standpoint, but certainly I think it's one that a lot of teams are envious of.”
In the air tonight
The Penguins took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a play that looked like something out of a ball hockey game on the street.
Phil Kessel collected a pass behind the net and softly lifted an airborne pass up over the cage toward the net-front area. Patric Hornqvist knocked it in with a baseball swing.
Fleury said Florida goalie James Reimer might have known the play was coming if he had watched the Penguins pregame.
At the end of warm-ups, the entire team swarms the net to try to push a puck past Fleury. On Sunday, Hornqvist ended the scrum when he knocked in an airborne puck that was passed to him from behind the net.
“It just tells you it wasn't a thing of luck,” Fleury said. “These guys are very skilled. They can put it in.”
Crowded at the top
Sunday's results left the top of the Metropolitan Division as jammed as it has been all season.
Columbus recorded a 4-1 win over New Jersey to move into a first-place tie with idle Washington at 100 points. The Penguins are right behind with 99.
All three teams have 11 games left in the regular season.
“We're all fighting for that No. 1 spot,” Sidney Crosby said. “We'll see what happens. We're just trying to give ourselves a chance here down the stretch.”
Washington and Columbus have clinched playoff spots. The Penguins can clinch one with two more points in the standings.
During the first stoppage in play in the first period, the Penguins paid tribute to legendary winger Jaromir Jagr on the video board, showing some of his greatest highlights in black and gold.
Jagr has given zero indication he has plans to retire, so it's not like the Penguins were wishing him a fond farewell. In fact, they were honoring him on his selection to the NHL's top 100 players of all-time list at the All-Star game.
Jagr, 45, was held without a shot or point in about 15 minutes of ice time. He played on Florida's top line with 23-year-old winger Jonathan Huberdeau and 21-year-old center Aleksander Barkov.
Yes, Jagr is older than his linemates combined.