Fleury nabs second win for Penguins
PORTLAND, Maine – Marc-Andre Fleury’s first game of the preseason was against a relatively pared-down New York Islanders roster on Sept. 20. The Penguins lost that game, but with a score of 1-0, it could hardly be blamed on the 18-year-old in net.
His next game was Tuesday against a loaded Boston Bruins roster that included Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov, among others. He passed that test with flying colors, stopping 28 shots in the Penguins’ first win of the preseason.
So for his third game – and possibly his last this preseason — Saturday night against the Washington Capitals, Fleury faced former Penguins players Jaromir Jagr and Robert Lang and goaltender Olaf Kolzig.
All he did this time was hold the Capitals at bay until teammates Colby Armstrong and Kris Beech found the net in the third period to win the game, 2-1. The No. 1 overall draft pick turned away everything that came near him through more than 55 minutes, but lost his bid for a shutout when Capitals forward Jeff Halpern scored at 17:21 of the third period.
The Penguins are now 2-3-1 in the preseason, and both wins came with Fleury in net.
“Five-on-five I thought we played pretty darned well, and the kid played really well, too,” said Olczyk
After the game, Olczyk praised his team’s play during five-on-five action. “Six goals in six games, I think that’s pretty good. If we talk about five-on-five play, like if someone had told us we’d only allow six goals in six games, we’d be really happy.”
Until the third period, the game was labored at best. It was Armstrong who finally made a mark on the scoreboard, scoring just 42 seconds into the third after a 2-on-1, shorthanded break with Matt Murley. It was Murley’s first assist of the preseason (2 goals, 1 assist), and Armstrong’s first point.
The bench came awake at that point, and less than six minutes later, Beech made it 2-0 when he went down the left wing and put a wrist shot over Kolzig’s far shoulder. It was Beech’s first point in his third preseason game.
Armstrong gave the Penguins perhaps their best chance through the first two periods when he drove to the net to catch a centering pass all alone with a minute left in the second. But Kolzig stopped his point-blank chance to keep the game scoreless going into the third.
Fleury made 34 saves for the win, including 16 in the third period and was named the No. 1 star of the game.
“As far as his play, he played a couple of real good games. He’s well beyond his years. If you took the name off the back of the jersey, you wouldn’t know the difference,” said Olczyk
The goaltender remains unsigned by the Penguins, who have until Oct. 6 to either get a deal done or return him to his junior team, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. There have been no negotiations to date between general manager Craig Patrick and Allan Walsh, agent for Fleury.
The Penguins have one game remaining tonight against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Olczyk said yesterday that he likely wouldn’t decide on a goaltender until the plane ride home from Portland, but could say for sure that it wouldn’t be Sebastien Caron, who played Friday.
Last night’s game might have been the last chance for several players on the roster to make a favorable impression on the coaching staff. The Penguins went with few veterans after most played on Friday in Pittsburgh against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and are likely to play again tonight in the rematch.