Marc-Andre Fleury expected to spend Saturday night at the far end of the Penguins' bench, watching backup Dany Sabourin play and reflecting on his own spotty work the first three games of the season.
But Fleury was forced into the game when Sabourin was shaken up and got a four-stitch cut on his head from a run-in with Toronto agitator Darcy Tucker late in the first period, and responded with a 19-save performance that was his best of 2007-08.
"Hopefully, he's going to build on it," coach Michel Therrien said.
Center Sidney Crosby described Fleury's play in the Penguins' 6-4 victory at the Air Canada Centre as "solid," and that praise was modest compared to some offered by other teammates.
"He did a great job," right winger Colby Armstrong said. "He played the way he's supposed to, made some big saves when he had to."
Fleury was visibly pleased with the way he played against the Maple Leafs -- his 1,000-megawatt smile was brighter than it has been since the start of training camp -- but not with how the opportunity for redemption came about.
"[Sabourin] is my friend," he said, "so I don't like to see him get hurt."
Sabourin's start, during which he stopped four of six shots, was his first of the season. When he'll get another isn't clear, especially if Fleury regains his rhythm.
"When you get a chance to play, you want to make the most of it," Sabourin said. "You always want to play, so hopefully I can get back in (soon)."
Nasreddine to rejoin team
Alain Nasreddine, sent to the Penguins' farm team in Wilkes-Barre on a conditioning stint last week, is expected to rejoin them today.
His return will give the Penguins six healthy defensemen, even if the concussion Brooks Orpik got in Toronto prevents him from playing against New Jersey Wednesday. A decision on Orpik's status has not been made, and he is listed as day-to-day.
Therrien said he expected Toronto's Simon Gamache to be penalized after hitting Orpik in the face with his right hand, in which he just happened to be holding his stick.
"Obviously, it [would have been] a tough call for the referee," Therrien said. "But yes, we were surprised [by the non-call]."
Talbot takes the lead
Maxime Talbot, who has three goals, is an unlikely candidate to be leading the Penguins in that category -- after all, they have some world-class talent on the top two lines, and Talbot plays on the fourth -- but it isn't entirely uncharted territory for him.
After all, Talbot scored 71 times in 120 games during his final two seasons of junior hockey.
"The last two years, I was always a goal-scorer," he said.
Controlling the play
Even though they trailed for much of the game Saturday, the Penguins controlled the pace of play throughout.
"We dictated the game from the start," Therrien said.
That was evidenced by the Penguins' 52-27 advantage in shots, the first time they got 50 or more shots in a game since recording 51 against the New York Rangers on Jan. 28, 2006. Their high last season, which they managed three times, was 44.
X-rays on Fleury's hand after Saturday's game did not detect any fractures. He was checked not because of anything that happened against Toronto, but because team officials wanted to verify that he had not been injured by a shot to the finger during an earlier practice. ... Tom Fitzgerald, the Penguins' director of player development, will serve as an assistant coach with the U.S. team that will compete in the Deutschland Cup Nov. 8-11 in Hanover, Germany.
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .