Penguins, Fleury shut out Buffalo
BUFFALO, N.Y. — And just like that, Marc-Andre Fleury’s troubles appear a distant memory.
The goaltender, in a horrible funk earlier this season, punctuated his resurgence with a shutout Wednesday, as the Penguins emerged with a 1-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
“Flower is back,” said Pascal Dupuis, who scored the game’s only goal. “He was great.”
Fleury stopped all 30 shots he faced and stifled two Buffalo power plays in the third period to hold on for the victory for the Penguins, who are 6-0-1 in their past seven games.
Although the Penguins did a fairly good job of keeping Buffalo’s chances to the perimeter, the postgame praise was aimed directly at Fleury, whose early-season struggles have been well-chronicled.
“That’s what happens in this game,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “The goalie is easy to pick on.”
No one is picking on Fleury these days.
“A lot of it is confidence,” Orpik said. “He wasn’t playing his best (earlier in the season), but it was magnified by the way we were playing in front of him. It’s no coincidence when we play better, it’s easier on him. And when he plays with confidence, everyone does.”
No one seems to be playing with more confidence than the Penguins’ captain. Sidney Crosby extended his scoring streak to an NHL-best 10 games by setting up the Dupuis goal at 15:04 of the first period.
Crosby raced down the right wing, forced defenseman Andrej Sekera into a turnover and then flipped a perfect backhand pass to Dupuis. The winger made no mistake, burying a high shot over goalie Jhonas Enroth for his sixth goal of the season.
“Oh my gosh,” Dupuis said of Crosby’s current play. “He’s on his game. It’s one of those things. When he’s on, he’s on.”
Crosby has 21 points during the 10-game streak.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said before the game that he’d be delighted to hold Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in check, and with one point between the two stars, it’s safe to say the Sabres succeeded.
All of a sudden, though, Fleury is also looking the part of a star.
“It was an outstanding game for Flower,” said coach Dan Bylsma, who admitted that Fleury was supposed to have a day off Monday in Florida but played because backup goalie Brent Johnson was ill.
The Penguins killed all three penalties, which included two late Buffalo power plays, and have killed 40 of their past 42 shorthanded situations.
“It (the penalty killing unit) is confident, but your luck will run out if you take too many (penalties),” Orpik said.
The Penguins were conservative in the final period, consistently taking icing calls and dumping pucks deep.
“That’s the way we wanted to play,” Orpik said. “It was a 1-0 game on the road.”
Fleury noted the Penguin’s defensive unit and penalty killers did a terrific job in front of him. He also said his confidence is in a much different place than it was a few weeks ago.
The Penguins play consecutive 1 p.m. games Friday and Saturday this weekend at Consol Energy Center against Ottawa and Calgary, respectively.
Fleury and Johnson might split starts over the weekend, but then, it might be hard for the Penguins to keep their starter out of the net.
“I’m having a lot more fun right now,” Fleury said. “It feels good right now. When you win, there’s nothing better.”