The Pittsburgh Penguins have been sluggish enough to earn Bronx cheers at home so far tonight, but Marc-Andre Fleury is a big reason why they’re only down 2-0 to the New York Rangers heading into the third.
That manageable – if still troubling – gap was maintained thanks to Fleury’s sprawling save on Derek Stepan:
Call it half skill and half luck (or something like that), but the Penguins aren’t that far from making a game of this in the final 20 minutes of regulation, and they can thank Fleury for some of that hope.
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.
News and notes from around the crease…
Pens need Fleury to come up big
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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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.
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