Golden Knights’ Fleury shuns spotlight, keeps going strong

LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s postgame routine used to include a call with his father, something that helped him step away from the stress of the game.

He’s had to get used to going without that. His father, Andre, died Nov. 27 after battling lung cancer.

“It’s hard, and took some time to get used to,” said Fleury. “All the guys have been very supportive and kind. The good thing was when I came back, we didn’t talk about it much, we just got back to normal.”

Normal, as in being one of the guys, something he became used to during his 13 years with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Andre “had such a big impact (on Marc-Andre); they talked about the game a lot,” Penguins star Sidney Crosby said of his close friend during his team’s visit to Las Vegas. “We could talk hockey for days, and I think that’s probably something any hockey player can relate to, that relationship with our mom or dad driving us to the rink. You build a pretty close bond.”

Following a rough patch on the ice after his father’s passing, some suggested Fleury’s skills were deteriorating and that the 35-year-old wasn’t handling things between the pipes well at all. He opened the season 11-6-2 with a 2.54 goals-against average and .919 save percentage through Nov. 23. When he returned from an extended leave after his father died, the Golden Knights were in eighth place in the Western Conference. They’ve since climbed to fourth in the conference and are atop the Pacific Division.

Now, as the face of a beloved franchise in one of the most recognizable cities in the world, Fleury does his best to balance life on and off the ice, all while trying to be just another player in the Golden Knights’ locker room.

“I’m a pretty reserved person,” the three-time Stanley Cup champion and five-time NHL All-Star said. “I just want to be treated like the other guys and be with the other guys. That’s how it was for most my career. Maybe Sid took the spotlight a lot, (which) was great. It’s just nice to be one of the guys.”

Which can be tough, considering the 16-year-veteran’s credentials.

With Wednesday’s league-leading fifth shutout, a 3-0 win over Edmonton, Fleury earned his 61st career shutout, tying him for 17th all-time with Turk Broda. His 465 wins rank fifth all-time.

“He’s accomplished so much in his career, but you would never be able to tell with his personality and how genuine and how good of a guy he is,” Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “Basically, he wants to be one of the boys and be treated like any other person. He doesn’t love the attention, but he knows who he is, and he knows what comes with that and he handles it very well.”

Fleury acknowledged he struggled at times to process his father’s death, and still does. But he knew he had to improve mentally if he was going to successfully endure the most difficult season of his highly decorated career.

“Everybody grieves in different ways,” Crosby said. “It’s certainly difficult, I’m sure, but (he’s) got some great memories. It’s something that as friends — as Flower’s family — we’re all gonna try to be there. It’s not easy, but we’ll get through it. He expects a lot of himself. He just wants to win hockey games.”

As of late, Fleury is doing just that.

Since Feb. 15, Fleury is 5-0-0 with a 1.60 goals-against average and .942 save percentage and appears poised to make another deep playoff run after Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon bolstered the lineup at the NHL trade deadline by trading backup goalie Malcolm Subban as part of a three-way deal that brought in Chicago goaltender Robin Lehner, a 2019 Vezina finalist.

It’s perfect timing, as Fleury is settling back into his comfort zone, being one of the guys on yet another playoff contender.

“He’s as advertised, both on and off the ice,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “You always recognize the talent and the skill and how good a goalie he was. I think when you spend time with him and you’re around him, you realize what a gentleman and what a good teammate and what a good person this guy is. And it’s not an act; it’s real. He’s a special person, and that’s what probably separates him more than even his talent, which is very high-end.”

Canadiens-Penguins stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

Canadiens-Penguins stream
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NBC’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Friday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Canadiens and Penguins. Coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Canadiens-Penguins Game 4 stream at 4 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Jeff Petry scored from a sharp angle by banking it off Matt Murray’s helmet early in the third period, which proved to be the game-winner once again in this series for the Habs. Petry became the seventh defenseman in NHL history – and fourth in the modern era (since 1943-44) – to score two game-winning goals through his team’s first three contests in a postseason.

The Penguins have now lost eight of their last nine playoff games dating back to the 2018 Second Round.

Tristan Jarry will replace Matt Murray in goal for Game 4.

Although the Habs netminder allowed more than two goals for the first time this series, Carey Price had another solid performance in net, turning aside 30 of 33 shots faced. When the Habs tied the game in the second and then took the lead in the third, Price elevated his game to help preserve the win.

Through three games this series, Price has a .937 SV% and a 2.19 GAA.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Friday, August 7, 4 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Gord Miller, Mike Milbury, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Canadiens-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens (MTL leads 2-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Canadiens 4, Penguins 3 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Canadiens vs. Penguins* if necessary

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

Barzal, Beauvillier help Islanders eliminate Panthers

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The Panthers had no answers for Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal in Game 4. The Islanders duo combined for three of their five goals during a 5-1 series-clinching win.

The 23-year-old Beauvillier put Florida on their heels midway through the first period with a pair of goals 3:38 apart. He surprised Sergei Bobrovsky on his first goal, whipping a backhand from just below the circle towards the unsuspecting netminder.

“Mistakes is mistakes,” Bobrovsky said. “It’s a game of mistakes.”

Beauvillier, who finished the series with three goals and five points, doubled the lead minutes later when he connected with a fantastic saucer pass from Barzal.

“I just think right now that Beau is enjoying playing good hockey and he’s getting rewarded for it with production,” said Islanders head coach Barry Trotz. “He is skating on the puck, he’s working, he’s just focused on his job in that moment.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Panthers would get one back late in the first, but Brock Nelson answered midway through the second. Not long after the Islanders reinstated their two-goal lead, Aleksander Barkov had a great chance to cut the lead to one, but Ryan Pulock had other ideas.

“You look back on it, it should’ve been a goal 10 times out of 10,” Barkov said afterward.

Semyon Varlamov bounced back from a Game 3 defeat to stop 24 out of 25 shots faced.

New York has won a postseason series for a second straight year, and it’s only their third series victory since 1992-93. Who they will play in the First Round next week is still up in the air, but it will be one of Tampa, Philadelphia, Washington, or Boston.

The loss extends the Panthers’ postseason woes. Florida has not won a playoff series since their 1995-96 run to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s the longest active drought in the NHL.

(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers (NYI win series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Islanders 4, Panthers 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Panthers 3, Islanders 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders 5, Panthers 1

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Not just Price is right: Canadiens have Penguins on brink

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It seemed like any hope the Montreal Canadiens had of beating the Pittsburgh Penguins rested on the shoulders of goaltender Carey Price.

Price has shouldered a big load in net, but he’s not the only reason the high-powered Penguins are on the brink of elimination, down 2-1 in the best-of-five qualifying round series. Montreal has held star Russian center Evgeni Malkin to zero even-strength points with one power-play assist through three games and can knock out Pittsburgh with one more victory in Game 4 Friday (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream).

“Pricey’s been really solid: He’s making some key saves for us,” center Phillip Danault said. “But yeah, he’s not alone in this and it’s important for him to know. We show some character, we go toe to toe. We embrace the challenge.”

The Eastern Conference’s 12th (and lowest) seed has shut down the NHL’s best team that didn’t get the luxury of a bye into the traditional first round of the playoffs. Beyond Price’s 104 saves on 111 shots to match the lofty expectations for his game, the Canadiens have held the Penguins to three power-play goals in 15 chances and bottled up an opponent that won the Stanley Cup twice in the previous four seasons.

Two-time playoff MVP Sidney Crosby has scored twice and added an assist, though Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust are also tied with him for the most points on the Penguins with three. The team defense in front of Price has been suffocating and explains why the Canadiens are a win away from advancing.

“We’re definitely aware when Malkin’s on the ice or Crosby’s on the ice and we try and limit their chances and take their space away as quick as possible,” Montreal defenseman Ben Chiarot said. “But they’re world-class players and they’re going to get their opportunities, and that’s when Carey steps in and does what he’s been doing for us. It’s five of us out there working together, playing defense and we’re just trying to keep it as tight as possible when those guys are on the ice.”

Coyotes-Predators stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

Coyotes-Predators stream
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NBCSN’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Friday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Coyotes and Predators. Live look-in coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Coyotes-Predators Game 4 stream at 2:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After winning Game 1 by scoring four goals, Arizona did the same in Game 3, coming away with a 4-1 victory on to take back the series lead. Darcy Kuemper made 39 saves in Game 3; he made 40 saves in their Game 1 win.

The Coyotes wore their retro Kachina jerseys Wednesday and will continue to wear them in all “home” games (including today) throughout the playoffs.

A win in Game 4 will give the Coyotes their first series win in eight years. Since moving to Arizona from Winnipeg in 1996, the Coyotes franchise has won just two playoff series – both in 2012, when they defeated Chicago in the opening round and the Predators in the second round.

WHAT: Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Friday, August 7, 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN (live look-in)
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Coyotes-Predators live look-in stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes (ARZ leads 2-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Predators 4, Coyotes 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Coyotes 4, Predators 1 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (live look-in stream)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators* if necessary

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule