Fleury, Penguins clip Canadiens in Game 3
MONTREAL — Something for those allegedly wise Penguins fans who spent parts of two days doubting a couple of Stanley Cup stars: Geno's shot is still great, and the Flower remains flawless when the Penguins need him most.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins are ahead, 2-1, in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series because center Evgeni Malkin's fifth playoff goal early in the third period and 10 saves afterward by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury sparked a 2-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night at Bell Centre.
"Of course I'm happy when I score and we win," Malkin said before grinning while agreeing that he told Fleury to make that goal at 1:16 of the final period count.
"I knew it was going to be tight until the end," Fleury said. "I was just trying to stay focused."
His position coach, Gilles Meloche, said the morning of Game 3 that maintaining focus would prove Fleury's greatest challenge as this series played out.
"It's not a stats series for 'Flower,'" Meloche said as he watched the Canadiens practice. "There will be stretches where he doesn't see a shot, long stretches — and the other guy (Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak) faces a lot of shots, so he makes a lot of saves.
" Flower is only going to look good only if he gives up just one goal."
He would have given up three in Game 3 if not for dazzling stops to preserve a 1-0 lead that held until winger Pascal Dupuis' empty-net goal with 15 seconds remaining.
There was a right-pad beauty on winger Brian Gionta at 10:34, then a left-shuffle sharpie on winger Mike Cammalleri at 7:40, and finally a crease-crusher on center Tomas Plekanec at 3:50.
"I thought he was as good as he had to be, honestly," said Cammalleri, who had scored a playoff-leading eight goals.
"I don't think he would tell you it was a heroic performance. We weren't in their end all night but, hey, none went in. I don't think you have to be any better than that."
The Canadiens had only 10 shots when Malkin, who had gone four games without a goal, scored to snap a 0 for 5 drought by the Penguins' power play since performing perfect on four advantages in a Game 1 home win.
Cradling a cross-ice feed from the left point by defenseman Sergei Gonchar, Malkin ripped a puck past Halak, who was expertly screened by Penguins center Sidney Crosby.
Despite going a fourth straight game without a goal and a third in four without a point, Crosby again proved capable of influencing the outcome of a contest without an impressive final score sheet — not that a 13 of 21 performance on faceoffs was without contribution to this win.
"We worked on it in practice," Malkin said of point-shots with Crosby setting a screen.
Malkin and Fleury worked hard after this game to not take umbrage with fans in Pittsburgh who had questioned their 2010 postseason.
Their mutual close friend, Penguins forward Max Talbot, said neither Malkin nor Fleury pay much attention to what's said about them outside the dressing room. Another of their allies, defenseman Brooks Orpik, said neither star player looked flustered by outside criticism that they should play better.
"That comes with the territory when you're two of the highest-paid players on the team," he said.
Also with the territory: delivering in tough spots.
Fleury and Malkin did in Game 3, the ninth of 11 the Penguins have won since returning to the playoffs in 2007.
"This was pretty good," said Fleury, who was born in Sorel, Quebec. "To win that game at home with a shutout is pretty cool."