Fleury denied 300th win as Penguins lose to Islanders in shootout
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury failed to record his 300th career win Friday.
It would have required a superhuman effort.
The Penguins, so sound defensively through the first two months of the Mike Johnston era, left the talented Islanders wide open all night in 5-4 shootout victory for New York.
Now two points behind the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division standings, the Islanders can move into a tie for first place with a regulation victory Saturday at Nassau Coliseum. The Penguins felt fortunate to earn a point, given how they performed.
“We left a lot of people open all night,” defenseman Paul Martin said. “And when we weren’t leaving people open, we were turning the puck over.”
The Penguins permitted three goals before the first period was half over.
Although the Islanders’ first goal was one Fleury would like to have back — fourth-line left wing Matt Martin beat Fleury to the short side on a shot the goaltender saw cleanly — the Penguins were guilty of multiple lapses, something that has been a rarity under Johnston.
The Penguins entered the game owning the NHL’s fourth-best goals-against average. They didn’t show it against the Islanders.
“The first period was a little rough,” Fleury said.
Johnston credited the Islanders, who also are among the NHL’s highest-scoring teams, but wasn’t pleased with his team’s first-period defensive work.
“I thought it was a combination of things,” he said. “Their start to the game was good. We weren’t stopping in position and settling things. We were trying to move and transition instead of trying to defend.
“We talked about it at the intermission. We got better at being in position and closing guys.”
Martin acknowledged that the Penguins might have been pressing because of the occasion.
Fleury is on the verge of becoming only the third goalie in NHL history to earn his 300th win before his 30th birthday. The others are Martin Brodeur and Terry Sawchuk.
Fleury turns 30 on Friday. He is scheduled to play two more games before then, Monday in Boston and Wednesday at home against Toronto. Fleury said he was aware that win No. 300 was a possibility but said it wasn’t a distraction.
Still, it was on his mind.
“A little bit,” he said. “But it’s not a bad thing. Three hundred or not, we still wanted to get two points. I’m disappointed we didn’t get two points tonight.”
Backup goalie Thomas Greiss will start Saturday.
Martin admitted the Penguins weren’t themselves Friday.
“Maybe we did (press),” he said. “But we should just play the way we can play. If we do that, it will take care of itself. We’ll be better tomorrow.”
They couldn’t be much worse.
On the Islanders’ second goal, Nikolay Kulemin weaved his way through Martin and defenseman Kris Letang and beat Fleury. Only 29 seconds later, center Ryan Strome was left alone and deflected defenseman Thomas Hickey’s shot past the goaltender.
After the Penguins pulled to within a goal, defenseman Nick Leddy was left open in the left circle early in the second and buried a one-timer past Fleury.
The Penguins roared back to tie the score in the third period despite not receiving a power-play chance all game. Johnston said the game was “well reffed” but did not say it was well played by his team.
Center Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout — the Islanders missed the net on countless opportunities in overtime and later in the third — but Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo beat Fleury to end the game.