Marc-Andre Fleury helps Golden Knights snap Penguins winning streak
In a lot of ways, Saturday served as a showcase for the Penguins’ track record of drafting and developing goaltenders in the 21st century.
One of those netminders they have spent countless hours and incalcuable effort cultivating offered yet another spellbinding peformance on a stage where he has dazzled on countless occasions.
The only issue was he plays for the Vegas Golden Knights these days.
Marc-Andre Fleury, the first overall pick in the 2003 draft by the Penguins, stopped all 29 shots he faced and directed the Golden Knights, the franchise that selected him in the 2017 expansion draft, to a 3-0 victory at PPG Paints Arena. It was Fleury’s 57th career shutout and his first against the Penguins, who had a five-game winning streak snapped.
“He made some great saves,” said Sidney Crosby, the other first overall pick the Penguins rebuilt the franchise with in the early 2000s. “There were some really good looks we had. He made some big saves throughout the night.”
Fleury outdueled backup Tristan Jarry, the goaltender the Penguins selected in 2013 in hopes he might succeed Fleury. Jarry was strong making 21 saves on 23 shots. The second goal he allowed came as he tried to vacate the net to give the Penguins an extra attacker late in regulation. While still on the ice, he was hardly in position to deny the shot.
The Penguins had to scramble to dress a full complement of players.
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin participated in warmups but was scratched from the game along with forward Jared McCann. Coach Mike Sullivan declined to offer any update on their statuses.
That forced defenseman Jack Johnson into being a last-minute — almost literally — addition to the lineup.
With the team rotating defensemen Erik Gudbranson and Jack Johnson in and out of the lineup over the past week, Gudbranson was expected to dress, and Johnson anticipated a scratch and was not at the building as the game approached it start at 7:08 p.m.
“I got a call from (assistant coach) Mark Recchi somewhere between 6:30 and 6:40 (p.m.),” Johnson said. “I said, ‘I’m on my way.’ He said, ‘Well might need you, (Dumoulin) is out. If you can get here and get dressed, we might need you tonight.’ “
Johnson arrived at PPG Paints Arena but did not have the benefit of participating in the warm-up skate.
Additionally, with McCann sidelined, rookie forward Sam Lafferty manned the the second-line center role, and defenseman Juuso Riikola returned to the lineup as a left wing on the fourth line for the second time in three games. He was forced into the same task when McCann missed Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime home win against the Colorado Avalanche because of an undisclosed injury.
Almost from the start, Fleury was tuned in. He pronounced that only 5 minutes, 48 seconds into the first period when he robbed Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist from the left circle by sliding to his right with his trademark agility and kicked out a wrister.
After Vegas opened the scoring with a power-play goal by Paul Statsny at 3:45 of the second period, Fleury continued with one of his finest performances on Pittsburgh ice.
The Penguins’ makeshift fourth line generated a furious scramble at 19:29 of the second that resulted in Fleury making saves while losing various pieces of equipment, including his lid. On the ensuing faceoff, he denied first-liners Jake Guentzel and Crosby on quality chances.
At 9:50 of the third, on a power play, Riikola had a seemingly wide-open net to shoot at from the right circle, but his one-timer was rejected by the inside of Fleury’s left elbow.
Vegas secured the victory with a short-handed empty-net goal by forward William Karlsson at 18:45 of the third then another goal by forward Mark Stone, with Jarry attempting to leave the ice, served as insurance at 19:08.
“It was a close game,” said Fleury, who helped the Golden Knights earn the 100th regular-season victory in franchise history. “Always fun for me to come back.”
Just not for his former team.
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .