Fleury stands tall for Penguins in Game 6
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Penguins owner Mario Lemieux once again visited goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the locker room.
This time, it was merely to offer congratulations.
Five days after Fleury's late implosion prompted Lemieux to console him at Nationwide Arena, the goaltender won his first playoff series in four years thanks to a 4-3 victory in Game 6 of the Penguins' first-round series against the Blue Jackets.
“He was the better goaltender in this series,” left wing Jussi Jokinen said. “And we needed him to be.”
The Penguins committed a number of gaffes in the final 10 minutes, nearly blowing a four-goal lead. Fleury, who spent time last summer with a sports psychologist at the request of the Penguins organization, was the most mentally sound player on the ice during that stretch.
“He stayed calm,” left wing Tanner Glass said. “We have so much confidence in him.”
Fleury made two sparkling saves on defenseman Jack Johnson and forward Matt Calvert during the Blue Jackets' furious rally.
“He's been really good,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “I mean, really good. Could he have made more saves? Sure. But a lot more could have gone in, too. We were back on our heels. We gave Calvert a breakaway. He was just great. He doesn't panic. Nothing seems to rattle him.”
Few were making such comments about Fleury a year ago.
But this is clearly a different goaltender.
He allowed only eight even-strength goals in the series, with most of Columbus' offense coming as a result of special teams breakdowns.
His new goaltender coach, Mike Bales, wasn't surprised by Fleury's terrific performance during the past two games of the series. Game 4 ended in disturbing fashion for Fleury — his now infamous jaunt behind the net and subsequent whiff of forward Nick Foligno's shot in overtime provoked many in the hockey world to once again question his playoff acumen — but clearly didn't bury him.
Rather, Fleury responded by stopping 47 of 51 shots in Games 5 and 6.
“I wasn't worried about it,” Bales said of the Game 4 blunder. “That mishap — that was something that could have set a lot of guys back. But not Marc. Marc responded.”
Bales and Fleury didn't have any inspirational conversations following Game 4. Instead, the coach wanted to simply keep things as normal as possible, feeling confidence that the work they've done together all season was strong enough to overcome any playoff demons that may have erupted last week.
“We never change our approach whether a goalie had a good game or a bad game,” Bales said. “I truly have 100 percent confidence in him. I've gotten to know him very well. I've gotten to see how he's responding to things. I wouldn't have expected anything else than what we saw tonight.”
Fleury has finished each of his past four postseasons with a save percentage under .900. Despite his team playing stretches against Columbus that could hardly be described as responsible hockey — “Those are our mistakes, and he's cleaning them up,” Niskanen said — Fleury was statistically solid if unspectacular against the Blue Jackets, finishing with a .908 save percentage.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
- Sutter: Staal effect felt on 3rd line with Penguins
- Penguins trade Sutter to Canucks, sign free agent center Fehr
- Reliving the moment a decade ago that shifted the Penguins' history
- Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
- Penguins co-owner Burkle stands to make big profit in selling team
- Second-generation Loney sparkles in Penguins’ development camp scrimmage
- New Pens winger Fehr ready for defense-first role