Penguins, Fleury best Canucks in shootout
It could have been a disaster for Marc-Andre Fleury.
Instead, it was just another chapter in his resurgence.
Fleury permitted his first “bad” goal of the season — on a shot from 80 feet — and, instead of crumbling, strengthened and was nearly flawless the remainder of the way in a 4-3 shootout victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday at Consol Energy Center.
“He took away two points for us,” center Evgeni Malkin said. “Flower's been unbelievable.”
Fleury stoned 36 of 39 Vancouver shots and was perfect in the shootout, stopping three Vancouver shooters.
According to right wing Pascal Dupuis, the Canucks' strategy was not the proper one in the final 45 minutes of regulation.
Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler opened the scoring with the kind of goal that saw Fleury removed from the net during the 2013 postseason. Edler corralled the puck by the left wing boards, in between the Penguins' blue line and the red line, and fired a harmless shot at Fleury. The puck hit Fleury in the chest, and then bounced over his head and trickled into the net.
Consol Energy Center turned eerily quiet after the goal, but Fleury turned resilient.
The Canucks, meanwhile, started firing at will from anywhere in the rink.
“What happened was that they saw the first one go in like that,” Dupuis said. “So, they started taking shots from center ice and from the blue line after they saw the first one go in. It was like he said, ‘I'll give you one, so now you can shoot from outside the rest of the game.'”
For Vancouver, it was the wrong choice.
Fleury would allow two more goals, one of a rebound that rendered him helpless to make a save, and another that came on a deflection.
“It was a fluky goal,” Fleury said, shrugging his shoulders. “It happens. You just have to go out and forget about it and keep playing. Go make the next save. That's what I did.”
Although the Canucks did fire a significant number of low percentage chances at Fleury, they were not without some quality scoring opportunities. The Penguins have been air tight defensively for most of October, but endured a couple of lapses against Vancouver.
In the first period, the newly formed line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler produced two quality chances for Kesler. Fleury stoned him on each occasion.
Later in the period, Daniel Sedin had an opportunity on the doorstep only to be denied by a Fleury pad save.
“They had some quality opportunities, some good offensive zone time,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “He has been strong for us and was again today.”
The goaltender stuffed a brief Vancouver flurry early in overtime and looked completely at ease during the shootout, blanking Mike Santorelli, Chris Higgins and Ryan Kesler.
Fleury's career record in games that enter shootouts is 40-17. He has stopped 138 of 180 shootout opportunities, a conversion rate of 77 percent.
“I've seen them before,” Fleury said of Vancouver's shootouts, noting that he beat the Canucks in a shootout on opening night in 2011.
The Penguins have seen this goaltender before, too.
Fleury is now 7-0 this season.
“It's good to see him bounce back,” Dupuis said, “and play like this.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
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