Penguins hang on after hot start to down Devils
Sidney Crosby is the NHL's leading scorer.
Evgeni Malkin is hot on his heels.
Those Penguins stars are headed to the Winter Olympics — as is, most likely, Chris Kunitz.
Marc-Andre Fleury is staying in Pittsburgh for the Sochi Games, and he knows it.
His performance this season is making it look like he will stay here for the rest of his career.
“He's been our best player this year, by far,” Pascal Dupuis said of Fleury, who turned aside 37 shots — including 30 in the final two periods — in a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night at Consol Energy Center.
Fleury is 18-8-1, on pace for a career-best 45 wins.
His goals-against average is 2.01, which would better his previous low of 2.32.
His save percentage is at .924. He has hit the .920-range just once previously. This, Dupuis suggested, is MVP-like work.
Dupuis was serious.
Consider that Fleury has played this season without a safety net. His backup, Jeff Zatkoff, never played an NHL game before this season.
Consider that Fleury has played behind a defense corps that — at least as general manager Ray Shero envisioned it — has played less than four full periods together because of injuries.
Consider that Fleury has played on a Penguins team that lacks a shutdown third line for the first time since coach Dan Bylsma arrived in February 2009.
Consider that Fleury has played on a club trying — sometimes with great success, though not Friday night, as Kunitz noted — to change the way it plays defense.
“He stole one for us,” Kunitz said of this victory over the Devils.
“We got an early lead, and then we backed in on them and let them shoot pucks. He was by far our best player.”
Dupuis staked the Penguins to a 1-0 lead 41 seconds into the opening period by poking a loose puck behind Devils goalie Cory Schneider for his fifth goal.
Wingers Chris Conner (second goal) and Jayson Megna (fourth) extended that lead to what felt like a commanding one by the first intermission.
The Devils were held to 16 attempted shots in the opening 20 minutes. They finished with 41.
The Penguins attempted only 26 shots, just seven combined by Crosby, Malkin and Kunitz.
Early second-period goals by wingers Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus — scored within a span of 56 seconds — pulled the Devils within a goal.
Fleury worked his magic after that, mixing athleticism with acrobatic plays and precise puck tracking to stymie the Devils.
The Penguins (22-10-1, 45 points) are attempting to earn home-ice advantage through the Eastern Conference playoffs for a second consecutive season — and that could mean a lot with the way Fleury has played at Consol Energy Center. He is 12-2-0 with 1.67 goals-against and .942 save percentage on home ice.
Shero can sign him to an extension this summer.
The general manager insisted that Fleury, off a fourth consecutive postseason with a sub-.900 save percentage, see the team's sports psychologist last summer.
There always was a reason for that, though.
Shero said he believed Fleury was a refocusing away from reclaiming his reputation as a big-game goalie.
“He's had some big games for us so far,” Kunitz said. “We've kept him busy, that's for sure. There have been some bad stretches on our part, turning over the puck, giving up odd-man rushes.
“He's been one of — no, the — best player for us.”
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.
- Pirates notebook: Taillon headed for surgery, Richard traded
- Jewish congregations dwindling, forced to mull viability of worship sites
- Russian winger Plotnikov could join Penguins in August
- Rossi: Rutherford shines as old boss pouts
- Homework: Day lilies on display at Trax Farms
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Indians, July 4, 2015
- Pirates can’t overcome long rain delay, Indians in interleague setback
- McDonald’s localizes menus to battle growing competition
- Smithton man gets 6-12 years for robbery in Jeannette
- Attorney general’s twin sister sued by FBI agent ex-boyfriend
- Santorum charter flight tab broke $400K