The Pittsburgh Penguins limped into the playoffs and that combined with the Penguins missing defensemen Christian Ehrhoff, Kris Letang, Derrick Pouliot, and Olli Maatta to a variety of injuries led to them being cast as the underdogs in their first round series against the New York Rangers.
Of course, as long as the Penguins feature Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, they can’t be ruled out entirely, but they weren’t able to take advantage of the fresh start that the playoffs afforded them.
The Rangers needed just 28 seconds to take a 1-0 lead as Derick Brassard took advantage of a big rebound created by Rick Nash’s shot:
The silver lining when it comes to falling behind early is there is plenty of time to regain the lead. That being said, the Penguins were 10-18-5 in games when they fell behind 1-0 in the regular season.
It’s been a tough go for Marc-Andre Fleury lately — he’s allowed at least four goals in six of his last 10 games, with the Pens going 3-5-2 over that stretch. What’s more, Pittsburgh’s defense has been decimated to where it’ll feature just five — yes, five — healthy skaters tonight when the Islanders come into Consol.
Which puts pressure on Fleury to come up with a clutch performance.
At the very least, Fleury will need to be better against the Isles tonight than in his three previous outings this season (1-1-1, 3.26 GAA, .904 save percentage). But the circumstances don’t bode well. Pittsburgh’s depleted defense has resulted in high shot totals — Fleury’s faced an average of 33.8 in his last five games — and New York is one of the NHL’s most prolific offensive teams, currently sitting fourth in goals per game (including 10 in its last three.)
For the Isles, Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal.
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Penguins pull Fleury midway through second vs. Red Wings
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury only survived 27:44 minutes against the Detroit Red Wings. Given the 4-0 score in favor of Detroit at the time Fleury was yanked, it’s hard to fault Penguins coach Mike Johnston for wanting to change things up.
It’s also hard to blame that score on Fleury.
The Penguins have played an undisciplined game, which led to the Red Wings enjoying an extended 5-on-3 advantage that Marek Zidlicky took advantage of 39 seconds into the second period. Then there’s the Henrik Zetterberg goal he was pulled for, which was arguably the result of poor defensive work rather than an error on Fleury’s part:
The first goal would have been a tough one for Fleury to stop given that it was a tip in by Riley Sheahan. Perhaps the marker that could be most pinned on Fleury was Teemu Pulkkinen’s blast late in the second period:
At the same time, this is the second straight game that Fleury has allowed four goals following Pittsburgh’s 6-4 win over Edmonton on Thursday.
The Kings heavily outshot the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, but Los Angeles didn’t have goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on its side and tonight he was the difference. Fleury kicked out all 31 Kings shots until finally Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist broke the scoreless tie in overtime.
Fleury was on a bit of a rough patch going into this game with three goals surrendered in each of his last three starts, but he’s been phenomenal overall this season with a 2.16 GAA and .924 save percentage. This was his ninth shutout of 2014-15, which is both the best in the NHL and just one away from doubling his old career high.
He also reached the 30-win mark for the sixth straight season, excluding the lockout shortened campaign. At the age of 30, he’s already accumulated 318 career wins, which puts him one shy of Miikka Kiprusoff and 25th place on the all-time list.
Of course, many of Fleury’s previous campaigns were impressive and that didn’t always translated to playoff success, but from a statistical perspective he’s never been this good in a regular season before.
Pittsburgh is now just three points behind the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders, but this game was even more critical for Los Angeles. The defending Stanley Cup champions are a point back from the Calgary Flames and third place in the Pacific Division and three points shy of the second Wild Card seed.
Fleury made a highlight-reel save to rob Jiri Hudler of a sure goal early in the third period.
“It should mean a lot,” said Crosby of the record. “There’s some really good teams with some of the goalies that have played in Pittsburgh. How difficult it is; it’s not easy and he’s played for a long time. I’m definitely happy for him. He earned every bit of it tonight. He made some huge saves for us, like we’ve seen time and time again.
“The last 15 minutes there, you could tell that guys weren’t going to take any chances and when we did kind of give up something you could tell guys were extra desperate. For a 4-0 game you don’t see guys usually that desperate. That’s the reason why, and it’s good to see that. Guys really wanted to see him get that.”
Chris Kunitz had three assists in the win.
David Perron and Brandon Sutter had the other Penguins goals.
Jonas Hiller allowed four goals on 24 shots and was replaced Karri Ramo in the third. Ramo made six saves in relief.
With the loss, the Flames concluded their six-game home stand with a 4-2-0 record.