Fleury records shutout as Penguins stymie Devils in opener
Mario Lemieux delivered a message to his franchise goalie on Thursday night.
“Good job, kid,” Lemieux said to Marc-Andre Fleury after a 27-save performance that hinted at blooms from the Flower's past.
“I'm proud of you.”
Fleury's 24th shutout and 250th win in the NHL did not erase the splotches on his resume — those four consecutive postseasons in which he could not stop 90 percent of opponents' shots.
All Fleury did Thursday night was save the Penguins from possibly giving away a multiple-goal lead over the final two periods and earn the No. 1 star designation for a 3-0 victory over New Jersey at Consol Energy Center.
No teammate paid Fleury a more inspiring compliment than rookie defenseman Olli Maatta, who made his debut at age 19.
“It makes you a lot more comfortable playing your first NHL game when you know the goalie is going to make the saves,” Maatta said.
Chuck Kobasew, Sidney Crosby and Craig Adams scored the Penguins' goals, but Fleury's “awesome” work — at least as Adams saw it — started this latest pursuit of the Stanley Cup on an arena-ringing note.
“Sometimes I shake my head at the things I read,” Adams said, referring to public criticism of Fleury over the four summers since his Cup-winning save on Nicklas Lidstrom at Detroit in 2009.
“This guy's a champion. He's a great teammate. I'm happy for him. He played awesome …
“(But) I don't think it means as much as you might think. We've had confidence and will have confidence in Flower.”
Coach Dan Bylsma made that clear two days after the Penguins were swept from the Eastern Conference final, when he declared Fleury his future No. 1 goalie despite backup Tomas Vokoun's MVP-esque run after taking over in Round 1.
Bylsma simplified his reasoning for that decision.
“I believe Marc-Andre Fleury is a very good goalie,” Bylsma said. “I think he's proven that time and time again.”
Fleury proved that against New Jersey with two highlight-reel saves after Adams' goal.
The Devils had outshot the Penguins, 14-8, from the start of the second period until Adams ripped a shot past New Jersey goalie Corey Schneider with about eight minutes remaining in regulation.
A few seconds later, Fleury, from behind his back, blindly caught in his left-handed mitt a puck that had rattled off the near post. That denied Devils center Travis Zajac.
“I heard the post,” Fleury said. “I felt it on my back, and I just wanted to reach as quickly as possible. From watching the Pirates, I guess.”
About five minutes later, with 3:59 remaining, Fleury sprawled his right-leg pad across the blue-painted crease to stone Devils winger Adam Henrique on a penalty shot.
New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer suggested Fleury prevented his club from a more deserving result.
Fleury, who was mandated by Penguins management to see the team's sports psychologist over the summer, said he was just “happy to get this win.”
Happier, based off the sellout crowd's reaction, were the fans for him.
“Hopefully the support the fans showed for him will go a long way,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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