Neal's goal lifts Penguins over Senators in overtime
By Josh Yohe
Published: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, 9:54 p.m.
The save of the season upstaged one of the season's finest goaltending performances.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's robbery of Ottawa star Erik Karlsson preserved a tie, which was snapped by James Neal's overtime goal in the Penguins' 2-1 victory at Consol Energy Center on Monday.
Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson stopped 46 of 48 shots, many of them on quality scoring opportunities.
Still, the night belonged to Fleury.
“I was the last guy into the zone,” Penguins left wing Tanner Glass said. “When I saw who it was with the puck, and when I saw where he was when he got the puck, I said, ‘That's a goal.' But I was wrong.”
Karlsson, a former Norris Trophy winner who sustained a lacerated Achilles tendon at Consol Energy Center last season, couldn't ask for a better scoring opportunity.
He couldn't have executed his shot better, either.
Karlsson, the league's highest-scoring defenseman since entering the NHL during the 2009-10 season, skated through the slot and received a cross-ice feed from left wing Clarke MacArthur. With Fleury standing by the near post, Karlsson saw nothing but an open net.
Karlsson quickly unleashed a shot that was ticketed for the upper-right hand corner of the net. Fleury somehow managed to lunge to his left and extend his left arm.
“That's something that I did not count on,” Karlsson said. “It's a great save. I can't really do anything else but tip my hat and say ‘good job.' I thought it was a clear shot and an open net. I just smiled at him. There's nothing really I can say. Unfortunately, I'm going to be on the highlights for quite a time with that one.”
Karlsson's shot entered Fleury's glove inches under the crossbar, inches before the puck sneaked across the goalie line.
“It wasn't just the ability to get across,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “He didn't just stick his glove out. It was going to the high corner. He had to go up and get it.”
“I just tried to get my leg and glove over there and just tried to stop it,” Fleury said. “And I was glad it went into the glove. You never think you're beat until it goes in, you know?”
A moment following the save, Karlsson fell to his knees and looked up to the heavens. The Consol Energy Center crowd showered Fleury with an extended standing ovation, and the Penguins continued what was an assault on Anderson.
“I've only ever seen a couple of goalies (capable) of making that save,” said right wing Brian Gibbons, who scored in the first period. “Obviously, it was huge.”
At the other end of the rink, Anderson held down the fort impressively.
He robbed center Brandon Sutter on two occasions, was a rock against all of the Penguins stars and stopped 46 of the first 47 shots he faced.
Neal, however, displayed noteworthy patience for a guy mired in an eight-game goal-less funk. He patiently skated laterally until he found a clear shooting lane and beat Anderson in overtime , ending the contest.
It was a fitting conclusion for the Penguins, who outshot Ottawa, 48-25, and owned most of the game.
“A good feeling,” Neal said. “We played the game we wanted to play all night.”
One moment, though, stood out above the rest.
“It was my man that was open,” Sutter said with a smile. “He really saved me. And I bet Karlsson would tell you he put it right where he wanted to. But it didn't matter. Just an amazing save.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
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