He did it by stopping 38 of the 40 shots he faced in a 3-2 win over the Flyers to help Vegas extend its lead in the Pacific Division. Twenty-eight of Fleury’s career wins have come against the Flyers, the team he has beaten the second most times in his career (he has defeated the New York Rangers 31 times).
Ryan Carpenter‘s goal late in the third period broke a 2-2 tie to give Fleury the offensive support he needed for the win.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
From the moment the Golden Knights received Fleury from the Penguins as part of the expansion draft process he was expected to be one of the core building blocks for the first year team. When healthy he has probably exceeded expectations by putting together one of the best seasons of his career.
Given that he is now a member of the 400-win club and been a part of three Stanley Cup winning teams, that is no small accomplishment.
For the Flyers, the loss continues their recent slide that has seen them drop six out of their past seven games.
It was never going to be easy for Marc-Andre Fleury, who could become the 13th goalie in NHL history to reach 400 wins if the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.
The perpetually grinning goalie came into the NHL as the first overall pick in 2003, a draft that turned out to be historically loaded. That’s a tough burden for any netminder, especially when you recall that – believe it or not – the Pittsburgh Penguins were in a positively dreadful place at that time.
“MAF” has seen some serious turbulence on his way to collecting three Stanley Cup rings. He became one of Hockey Twitter’s favorite goalies to ridicule, and at times criticisms were certainly warranted; following his first championship with Pittsburgh, Fleury’s save percentage was below .900 in four straight postseasons. Plenty of goalies wouldn’t be able to rebuild their confidence after such struggles, and there were valleys including some tough times that warranted a well-publicized locker room visit from Mario Lemieux.
Fleury’s eventual exit from Pittsburgh was remarkably classy, but it was more than that. The athletic goalie also happened to go out on a high note.
For all the memories of postseason struggles, Fleury was fantastic during the first half of the Penguins’ 2017 Stanley Cup run, posting a splendid .924 save percentage. How many goalies would be this relaxed during a Game 7 of a playoff series, to the point of teasing Alex Ovechkin after a save that … well, few goalies could author?
Fleury then gave way to Matt Murray without making a stink, passed him the Stanley Cup, and then gracefully accepted going to an expansion team. By gestures alone, he deserves serious kudos:
With Fleury, it’s easy to get distracted by the bigger moments. During the time of that Game 7 save against Nicklas Lidstrom, fancy stats people gradually found themselves rolling their eyes at praise of Fleury. Now, his improved work might be slipping under the radar.
Remarkably, the 33-year-old is in the middle of one of his best regular seasons. Injuries limit his Vezina appeal, but Fleury is 24-9-3 with a .930 save percentage, which would easily rank as his best individual season.
Gerard Gallant deserves a lot of credit for how the Golden Knights play, and the line of Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and William Karlsson probably deserve more ink for being one of the more dangerous NHL trios (at least when healthy). It’s easy to lose track of how special a season Fleury is having thanks to injuries and other headlines, but he probably deserves credit as the glue holding a shockingly competitive expansion team together.
“Those two guys (Roy and Brodeur) are from the province of Quebec like me and they were guys I grew up looking up to,” Fleury said. “There are other guys on that list too from the 1990s that I used to watch like Ed Belfour (484) and Curtis Joseph (454).
“Now I see their names on the list and to think I’m up there, it’s flattering and kind of unbelievable.”
Fleury may never win a Vezina during his NHL career. He may not win over all his critics, even if he continues his current upward trend.
None of that changes that he’s enjoyed a memorable career, and whether he reaches 400 wins tonight or later on, Fleury’s shown why he was one of the few goalies to go first overall. Simply put, there’s no other goalie quite like “The Flower.”
Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers: The Cats need a few things to go right to make the playoffs. The man called Lu (or Strombone) posting 31-save shutouts will certainly help their cause though. Luongo was stellar in the win, his 75th career shutout, and the Panthers are two points out of a playoff spot. Fancy that.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights: Fleury turned aside all 28 shots he faced against a porous Detroit Red Wings team in a 4-0 win. Vegas matched the record for most road wins (19) by a team in its inaugural season because of course they did. Honorable mention to Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin, who split the spoils with a pair of goals each.
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: 16 saves don’t seem like many to get a shutout, but it’s hard as a goalie to keep your wits about you when you’re facing next to no shots. Jones faced 16 shots in a 2-0 shutout, with only two of those coming in the third period. St. Louis was very bad on Thursday, with Jake Allen standing in the way of a complete blowout. Allen stopped 34 of 35.
The whole team, Nashville Predators: Yes, every single one of them. Because winning is hard in the NHL and yet the Predators recorded their 10th straight win on Thursday in a 4-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks.
Some Jets stuff, because they have players named Laine and goalies named Hellebuyck:
Patrik Laine’s goals this season, entering tonight. Guy scores too quickly to keep up. His goal tonight is one of only 5 from around the top of the crease. Farthest average goal distance of any player with at least 20 goals. #whatareleasepic.twitter.com/CWSdj6HgZw
PITTSBURGH — It was quite a scene in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night when Marc-Andre Fleury, one of the most beloved players in Penguins history, made his return to the city for the first time as a visiting player.
It probably wasn’t the night Fleury had planned for his return, giving up five goals on 38 shots in a wildly entertaining 5-4 loss to the Penguins, but a standing room only crowd spent much of the night — from the start of warmups to his announcement as the third star of the game — showering him with cheers, thanks and appreciation for what he did for the team over the previous 13 years.
During the first TV timeout in the first period they roared during an extended tribute video and then kept cheering for so long that the linesman actually delayed for a minute before finally dropping the puck to continue the game.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Fleury after the game when asked about the night. “In warmup I had goosebumps. Before the game, people had signs and kind words. It’s a night I won’t forget. Except maybe the score.”
“It was just amazing, the support I’ve gotten over the years here is just incredible. I thank everybody for all these years and once again showing up tonight with such great support.”
Here is a look at the tribute video the Penguins put together to welcome back Fleury.
Fleury was obviously a bit emotional during the video and said after the game he was just glad he had a mask on.
“They always do a good job with these (videos),” he said. “A lot of good memories. A lot of good years. It just brought some fun memories.”
Early on it looked like it was going to be Fleury’s night as the Golden Knights jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from William Karlsson and James Neal, one of the four former Penguins that currently play for Vegas.
Fleury also made a handful of big saves, including robbing Jake Guentzel on a breakaway.
But in the second period the Penguins’ firepower finally became a bit too much. A Ryan Reaves goal opened the floodgates, and then Ian Cole, Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel all followed to help the Penguins score five consecutive goals.
“They’re a very talented team, very fast, and able to create a lot of space and time for themselves to get some goals,” said Fleury.
“Sometimes I caught myself thinking a little too much about their tendencies. Hopefully it will get easier to play them as it goes on.”
Kessel and Malkin nearly had a couple of more goals as Kessel ripped two shots off the post early in the game, while Fleury was able to stop Malkin with one of his patented poke checks on a second period breakaway.
“I had Geno on a breakaway and got a poke check in there so I let him know,” Fleury said with laugh after the game when asked if there was any friendly trash talk during the game. “Phil wanted one and hit the post a few times and kept telling me he was coming back. He did get one.”
Fleury said the entire day was a different experience for him but that he now knows what it’s like to be other goalies in the NHL having to play in that building against that team.
“It was so different to be in this locker room and going on the ice in another jersey and seeing them coming at me,” said Fleury.
“Now I get to see what the other goalie faced all these years. It was a lot going on, lots of emotions, a little bit of stress, but it was worth it.”