Fleury, Penguins suffer worst loss of preseason
COLUMBUS, Ohio — While one game isn’t likely to undo all that goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury accomplished in Penguins’ training camp, the result of his fourth and final preseason game on Sunday was still the last thing he wanted.
Along with many of his teammates, Fleury started to unravel midway through the second period. The No. 1 overall draft pick allowed five goals — one more than in his previous three starts combined — as the Penguins lost, 5-1, to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The teams were tied at 1-1 after Penguins defenseman Dick Tarnstrom scored early in the second period, but the Penguins quickly unraveled after that. The Blue Jackets scored the next three goals in the second — two at even strength and one shorthanded — and added a third period power-play goal to hand the Penguins their worst loss of the preseason.
It was the third game in three nights for the Penguins, who end the preseason 2-4-1.
The game was also Fleury’s second in as many nights, but he blamed himself and not the schedule.
“It wasn’t the best so far,” said Fleury, 18, who faced 29 shots. “For sure I was more tired than yesterday, but I don’t think that’s why I didn’t play as good as I should. That’s not the reason. I don’t know (what it was). I think things just didn’t go good (yesterday) for me.”
Management won’t have a chance to see how Fleury responds in his next game before deciding whether or not to sign the No. 1 overall draft pick. They have until Oct. 6, at which point they must either sign him or return him to his junior team for the season.
Fleury finished with a 2-2 preseason record and nine goals allowed on 117 shots for a save percentage of .923 and a goals-against average of 2.25.
“Was (Fleury) particularly sharp tonightâ¢ No. But we gave him a lot of really good opportunities, which we haven’t done in the past,” coach Eddie Olczyk said. “We gave up three even-strength goals, and we’d only given up six in six games. But again, we know what type of goaltender he is and what he can be, and we know where we want to get to.”
With the score tied, the Penguins had an opportunity to take the lead on a power play, but Martin Straka turned the puck over to Trevor Letowski at the blue line. He took off on a breakaway and made it 2-1 at 6:28 of the second period. Columbus scored again 10 minutes later during 4-on-4 play, and less than a minute later, a Ross Lupaschuk turnover in the Penguins’ end led to a 3-on-1 and a score of 4-1.
“The will was there, but the execution (last night) wasn’t,” Olczyk said. “It was 1-1, then they scored the shorthanded goal and that kind of took a lot of wind out of our sails. At the end of training camp, the reality of it is that cutdown day’s coming up and maybe too much thinking is going on. But I’ll take the majority of the blame for tonight. The last couple of days have been pretty tough on the guys.”
Notes: Last night was the third game in a row for prospects Matt Murley and Ryan Malone. Malone fought Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre in the third period, and Matt Murley fought Duvie Westcott.