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Starkey: Fleury's save sparks win

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jeff Carter. Open net.

Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had a quick thought when greeted with that particular set of circumstances midway through the third period Friday night.

It was a thought likely shared by a good number of the 17,132 fans at Mellon Arena and tens of thousands more watching on television.

"I was like, -- Ohhh (expletive)," Fleury said later.

The Philadelphia Flyers led, 2-1, and Carter -- he of the 46 regular-season goals -- found the puck on his stick after it bounced back to him on a 2-on-1 break.

Fleury was hopelessly out of position, so he did the only thing he could: He kicked out his right leg like a pinball flipper -- and in doing so, he must have conjured the spirit of Frank Pietrangelo, whose wondrous glove save helped the Penguins win a first-round series on their way to a Stanley Cup in 1991.

Somehow, Carter's slam dunk bounced off the toe of Fleury's skate and back into play.

Pietrangelo gave us "The Save."

Fleury gave us "The Blade."

Now, Carter didn't lift the puck. He even shot it back toward Fleury's skate. But you can't blame him. Fleury is one of a handful of goaltenders -- OK, maybe the only one -- with feet fast enough to make that stop.

"He's quick," Carter admitted.

Actually, a save can only become legendary if it leads to something much bigger -- like a Stanley Cup -- so we'll stop with the Pietrangelo riff.

But make no mistake: Fleury prevented the Penguins from going back to Philadelphia tied at a game apiece.

The Penguins took advantage of their second life when Evgeni Malkin scored a power-play goal with 3:37 left in regulation (Carter was in the penalty box). Bill Guerin won it, 3-2, with a 5-on-3 goal at 18:29 of overtime.

Fleury made 38 saves in all, including a stellar pad stop on Mike Knuble after a funny bounce off the end boards in overtime.

This is why you give a goaltender a $35 million contract, as the Penguins did Fleury last summer.

"I don't know what (the Carter save) looked like on TV, but from the bench, it looked like he had the whole net," said Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. "Fleury came out of nowhere. It reminded me of that save he made in Detroit (on a 2-on-1, against Mikael Samuelsson, in Game 5 of last year's Stanley Cup final)."

Fleury also compared it to the save on Samuelsson.

"Sometimes they hit you, and sometimes they don't," he said. "This was the good time."

This could be the game that crushes Philadelphia's hopes, for the Flyers are well aware of how critical Game 2's can be. Last year, they lost Game 1 on the road in each of their first two series -- at Washington and at Montreal -- but bounced back to win Game 2 and the series each time.

Much of the talk after the game was about the penalties called in overtime. Penguins defenseman Hal Gill already was in the box for cross-checking when the Flyers took a pair of penalties to set up Guerin's game-winner.

Knuble cross-checked Orpik at one end, and Claude Giroux slashed the stick out of Chris Kunitz's hand at the other, giving the Penguins a two-man advantage for 1:29.

Both cross checks, frankly, could have been overlooked. As Orpik said, the referees let the teams play all night. But the Giroux penalty had to be called.

Kunitz's stick was snapped in-half.

Guerin got the winner, his second goal, when he took Sergei Gonchar's feed at the side of the net and quickly shoved the puck past Martin Biron, setting off a wild celebration.

Biron was brilliant, with 46 saves, but Fleury stole the show.

The Penguins won by a blade.

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