Sport Flower Power: Fleury thriving in familiar spot for Penguins

17:51  21 april  2017
17:51  21 april  2017 Source:   Associated Press

Fleury makes late start, Penguins rush by Blue Jackets 3-1

  Fleury makes late start, Penguins rush by Blue Jackets 3-1 Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 31 shots in a surprise start in place of injured Matt Murray and the Pittsburgh Penguins opened their Stanley Cup title defense with a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night. BOX SCORE: PENGUINS 3, BLUE JACKETS 1Murray was scheduled to get the nod in the playoff opener but was a late scratch after suffering a lower-body injury during warm-ups. Fleury withstood an early push by Columbus, and the Penguins responded by pulling away from the untested Blue Jackets.Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh.

PITTSBURGH (AP) Marc-Andre Fleury is doing his best to stay in the present. Who knows how much longer he’ll play for the Pittsburgh Penguins ? The winningest goaltender in franchise history certainly has no clue. Heck, 10 days ago he was the backup to Matt Murray.

PITTSBURGH (AP) Marc-Andre Fleury is doing his best to stay in the present.

PITTSBURGH — Marc-Andre Fleury is doing his best to stay in the present.

Who knows how much longer he'll play for the Pittsburgh Penguins? The winningest goaltender in franchise history certainly has no clue. Heck, 10 days ago he was the backup to Matt Murray. Now he's the most important reason the defending Stanley Cup champions are heading to round two after taking care of Columbus in five games.

"I think once you realize you never know what's coming, you try to enjoy every moment that you have," Fleury said after Pittsburgh finished off the Blue Jackets with a 5-2 win on Thursday. "We have a great team. We have great fans. It's a fun place to play. Try to embrace it and enjoy the momentum."

Joe Starkey: Fleury makes GM Rutherford look like a genius

  Joe Starkey: Fleury makes GM Rutherford look like a genius Ran into an old-time goaltender on my way out of the Penguins’ locker room Wednesday night. The conversation started like this: Me: “How about Fleury tonight?” Ed Johnston: “Thank God Jimmy never made a move.” E.J. was talking about Penguins general manager “Jimmy” Rutherford, of course, the guy who’s done just about everything right since early last season. That would include, notably, holding onto Marc-Andre Fleury instead of trading him when trading him became a clear option beginning in July.

PITTSBURGH — Marc-Andre Fleury is doing his best to stay in the present.

Murray tweaked a lower-body injury in pregame warmups and all of a sudden Fleury was back in his old spot . While Fleury admits to still getting butterflies occasionally, his steady hand helped the Penguins fend off the young and physical Blue Jackets. Pittsburgh's goal before playing either

There's plenty to go around for the Penguins. Fleury turned aside 49 shots in the clincher, including a first-period barrage that kept the Blue Jackets at bay until his teammates got it going, and another 19 in the third as Columbus tried to keep its season alive.

"He had to make a ton of huge saves," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "They weren't necessarily routine, either. He was tested a lot. We don't like to have to make him work that hard. He was our best player tonight."

That's the way it usually tends to go for teams who make deep postseason runs. The Penguins took their initial step toward becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to capture back-to-back championships by watching Fleury turn back the clock. He spent most of the winter watching Matt Murray - who stepped in when Fleury went down with a concussion on the eve of the 2016 playoffs and helped the Penguins to the franchise's fourth Cup - slowly but surely take over his decade-long tenure as Pittsburgh's top goalie while trying to tune out speculation about his availability in the upcoming expansion draft.

Penguins' Fleury to stay in net for Game 2 vs. Blue Jackets

  Penguins' Fleury to stay in net for Game 2 vs. Blue Jackets Marc-Andre Fleury will remain in net for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of their playoff series against Columbus while Matt Murray deals with a lower-body injury. Murray was scheduled to start Game 1 but left after suffering a lower-body injury in warm-ups. Fleury came on and made 31 saves as the Penguins cruised to a 3-1 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.Penguins coach Mike Sullivan offered no public update of Murray's status on Thursday, saying only there's no timetable for Murray's return.

Murray tweaked a lower-body injury in pregame warmups and all of a sudden Fleury was back in his old spot . While Fleury admits to still getting butterflies occasionally, his steady hand helped the Penguins fend off the young and physical Blue Jackets. Pittsburgh's goal before playing either

Marc-Andre Fleury is the biggest reason the Pittsburgh Penguins are heading to the second-round of the playoffs. Murray tweaked a lower-body injury in pregame warmups and all of a sudden Fleury was back in his old spot .

Moments before Game 1 against Columbus, the narrative changed. Murray tweaked a lower-body injury in pregame warmups and all of a sudden Fleury was back in his old spot. While Fleury admits to still getting butterflies occasionally, his steady hand helped the Penguins fend off the young and physical Blue Jackets.

Pittsburgh's goal before playing either Toronto or Washington in the next round? Making sure Fleury doesn't have to work nearly as hard. Too often over the final three games against Columbus the Penguins found themselves in the kind of freewheeling up-and-down game that might be fun to watch but doesn't typically translate into extended stays in the playoffs.

Considering both the Maple Leafs and the Capitals have plenty of firepower - throwing pucks and bodies at the net with little regard for what's in the way - keeping Fleury's line of vision as clear as his mind is a must.

Penguins beat Blue Jackets 5-4 in OT to take 3-0 series lead

  Penguins beat Blue Jackets 5-4 in OT to take 3-0 series lead Jake Guentzel had a hat trick, including a goal at 13:10 of overtime, to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-4 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night and give them a 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series. Bryan Rust added two goals for Pittsburgh, and Marc-Andre Fleury overcame a shaky first period to make 33 saves. Guentzel is the first Pittsburgh to rookie to get a playoff hat trick.The defending champion Penguins will go for the sweep in Columbus on Tuesday night.After only scoring two goals combined in the first two games of the series, Columbus scored three goals in just over six minutes of the first period.

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) shakes hands with Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) after a 5-2 Penguins win in Game 5 of an NHL first-round hockey Murray tweaked a lower-body injury in pregame warmups and all of a sudden Fleury was back in his old spot .

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) shakes hands with Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) after a 5-2 Penguins win in Game 5 of an NHL first-round hockey Murray tweaked a lower-body injury in pregame warmups and all of a sudden Fleury was back in his old spot .

"That sense of desperation, especially in front of your net, is crucial and kind of intrinsic to playoff hockey," Pittsburgh defenseman Ian Cole said. "We need to make sure we're doing that, make sure we're limiting chances around our net front. That's where the grade A chances are and if we do that I think we'll be OK."

When the breakdowns came on Thursday, Fleury was there to clean up the mess. He stopped 181 of the 194 shots he faced in the first round, outplaying Sergei Bobrovsky, who led the league in goals against and save percentage during the regular season only to get lit up by the NHL's highest-scoring team over the course of five games.

The Penguins have the luxury of a deep and talented forward group that can compensate for the occasional defensive slipup. Four players - Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel - averaged over a point a game against Columbus and Bryan Rust poured in a pair of goals in Game 5.

Pittsburgh, though, would just as fine outplaying opponents than simply trying to outscore them.

"Defense wins championships," defenseman Justin Schultz said. "You've got to be good defensively and that's something we'll work on but we've got some time off here to do that and we'll be better."

Penguins beat Blue Jackets 5-4 in OT to take 3-0 series lead

  Penguins beat Blue Jackets 5-4 in OT to take 3-0 series lead Jake Guentzel had a hat trick, including a goal at 13:10 of overtime, to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-4 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night and give them a 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series. Bryan Rust added two goals for Pittsburgh, and Marc-Andre Fleury overcame a shaky first period to make 33 saves. Guentzel is the first Pittsburgh to rookie to get a playoff hat trick.The defending champion Penguins will go for the sweep in Columbus on Tuesday night.After only scoring two goals combined in the first two games of the series, Columbus scored three goals in just over six minutes of the first period.

× powered by Ask. / Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan gives instructions to Justin Schultz (4) during the first period in Game 5 of the team's NHL first-round hockey playoff series against Murray tweaked a lower-body injury in pregame warmups and all of a sudden Fleury was back in his old spot .

× powered by Ask. / Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan gives instructions to Justin Schultz (4) during the first period in Game 5 of the team's NHL first-round hockey playoff series against Murray tweaked a lower-body injury in pregame warmups and all of a sudden Fleury was back in his old spot .

The Penguins will almost certainly need to be better in front of Fleury whenever the next round begins. While coach Mike Sullivan stressed his team's best hockey "is head of us" the one area he and the team he leads isn't worried about is in net.

"When Murray went down before Game 1 you got a guy stepping in who's done it before, who's a great goalie, regardless of what happened during last year's playoffs," defenseman Ron Hainsey said. "I think the guys fed off that."

PHOTOS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

Penguins and Capitals have been here many times before .
Stunning things happen during the Stanley Cup playoffs every year, and 2017 has been no exception. Who foresaw Nashville limiting Chicago’s high-octane offense to three goals in four games?Or the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 finishers in the regular-season standings being jettisoned in Round 1?Or Boston accumulating five delay-of-game minors in its final two games against Ottawa?Not everything, however, is chaotic and unpredictable in the spring.Exhibit A: The Penguins are preparing to face Washington in a best-of-seven series, beginning at 7:38 p.m. Thursday at Verizon Center.

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