Despite Fleury's injury, Pens' streak reaches 13 straight
By Rob Rossi
Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 9:51 p.m.
The Penguins are hoping for some luck after their 13th consecutive victory.
Franchise goalie Marc-Andre Fleury did not finish a 1-0 victory Tuesday over the Montreal Canadiens at Consol Energy Center.
His helmet absorbed an accidental shot from the left arm of teammate Tyler Kennedy in the final moments of the second period.
Coach Dan Bylsma said Fleury was being evaluated by team physicians but declined to provide specifics. However, goaltenders coach Gilles Meloche said he thought Fleury was “going to be OK.”
Fleury was hit while covering a puck in the blue paint of his crease during a scrum that Kennedy and Canadiens right winger Brian Gionta arrived at late. Fleury finished the period but was replaced by backup Tomas Vokoun for the third.
“If you watch the replay, their own guy falls on Fleury — it's self-explanatory,” said Gionta, whom former Boston College teammate and Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik described as a “pretty honest player.”
No Penguins player apologized for their third-period response: Structure of Bylsma's system was abandoned at times in favor of runs at Gionta, who said he was not surprised.
The Penguins were ahead, 1-0, after captain Sidney Crosby's 15th goal in the second period, and before the puck dropped on the final 20 minutes, left winger Matt Cooke was barking at Gionta in the faceoff circle.
Cooke was penalized for roughing 31 seconds into the final period.
“With a one-goal lead, you probably don't want to take that penalty,” Orpik said. “It's a fine line, but when you see a guy sticking up for a teammate, it's one of those ones that is worth killing.”
The Penguins' run of 13 straight victories is second longest in franchise history. The 1992-93 Penguins won 17 in a row, an NHL record.
Fleury stopped 25 shots before exiting, continuing a run of personal excellence. He has allowed three goals in five games, recording a .979 save percentage over that span.
Fleury earned his NHL-best 18th victory because Vokoun was sharp in his stead.
Vokoun, a pricey backup ($2 million annually) for a salary-cap team such as the Penguins, turned aside 12 shots to preserve the lead.
He has allowed only four goals on 117 shots during his past five appearances. That followed a three-game run over which Vokoun, in his 15th season, allowed 16 goals.
“Every night we used to play against him, it was a night we probably had to put 40, 50, 60 shots against him to get the win,” left winger Chris Kunitz said, referring to Vokoun's tenure with Florida.
The Penguins (26-8-0, 52 points) lead the Atlantic Division by 15 points. They have 14 games remaining and hold a seven-point lead in the Eastern Conference for home-ice advantage until the Stanley Cup Final.
Crosby leads the NHL with 54 points, 11 more than Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos and 12 ahead of Kunitz.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price marveled at Crosby's goal Tuesday, which was scored on an off-angle shot after he raced into the offensive zone following reception of a deft pass from Kunitz.
“Obviously he's the best player in the world,” Price said. “Five millimeters was the difference in the game tonight.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com of via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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