None of this is new for Marc-Andre Fleury. Not really. After all he had won 249 games before the Penguins' 3-0 victory against New Jersey in the regular-season opener Thursday night at Consol Energy Center and had recorded 23 shutouts. But at this juncture in his career after losing his starting job during the Penguins' playoff run this past spring Fleury needed a quality performance. To start to convince the many fans who have come to doubt him. To begin to persuade any teammates who might have wondered privately whether he still can be a difference-maker. And perhaps most of all to remind himself just what he is capable of doing. Which he did by stopping all 27 shots the Devils threw at him including a penalty shot by Adam Henrique with less than four minutes to play in regulation. "That was certainly a good start" Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He was excellent tonight." Especially in the third period when the penalty-shot save on Henrique was the sequel to a behind-the-back stop he made on Travis Zajac less than four minutes earlier. "We probably make him work harder than he needed to especially at the end" center Sidney Crosby said. "But those were some beauties." Fleury's rejection of Henrique with his right-leg pad was testimony to his anticipation and reactions; the stop on Zajac reflected how fortune broke his way at times. Zajac's shot hit the right post bounced off Fleury's back and was dropping toward the goal line when Fleury thrust his glove behind the back -- "I just tried to reach as quick as possible back there" he said -- and had the puck settle into it. "That's going to be ESPN top 10 for sure" Devils right winger Jaromir Jagr said. "He was lucky he didn't even know he did it." Fleury who volunteered that "I've seen shutouts broken too often" by late goals of dubious pedigree seemed visibly relieved and satisfied with how the game played out although his words afterward were tempered. "I'm happy to be in there and get a win" he said. "It's a long season though. "This one is done and I'm looking forward to playing the next one." Although the Penguins were ragged at times -- heck it occasionally looked as if they hadn't played a game that counted in months -- their only major negative was that right winger James Neal left the game in the first period because of an unspecified injury that had forced him to sit out the game-day skate. "It's more a situation [where] we didn't want to aggravate it in the first game of the season" Bylsma said.
Fleury shuts out Devils as Penguins win season opener, 3-0
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Oct 4