Fleury was 'solid the whole series'

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It's an accepted truth that hockey goaltenders are a little, well, nuts.

Usually, anyway.

Marc-Andre Fleury apparently is only nuts in the sense that he is way too normal for someone willing to face the stinging shots from NHL snipers game after game.

Take yesterday. It was going on 5 p.m. and the Penguins had retreated to their Mellon Arena dressing room awaiting overtime after Fleury had given up two goals to the New York Rangers early in the second period of Game 5 of their second-round playoff series.

At Fleury's stall in one corner of the room, there was a sea of calm. No stick-slamming. No yelling. No moping. Not even a string of French naughty words.

"He just sat quiet next to me and didn't say much," winger Jarkko Ruutu said. "He's actually pretty normal for a goalie. He's kind of like a [skater]."

Fleury did show a little movement during that intermission. He replaced some fluids and electrolytes.

"I tried to just do it like it was a [second intermission]," Fleury said. "Everybody just did their routine."

Which for him consists of the kind of quality minutes normally reserved for a warm summer night on the back porch.

"Just sit around, drink some Gatorade, try to relax a little bit and then go back out there," Fleury said with a little shrug and one of his boyish smiles.

When he and his teammates returned to the ice in what was Fleury's first venture into overtime in an NHL playoff game, he didn't have to make a save before the Penguins eliminated the Rangers, 3-2, on Marian Hossa's goal 7:10 into the extra period.

Fleury finished the game with 20 saves. He finished the series having given up just 11 goals in five games with a shutout and having withstood two games in which the Rangers erased deficits of two goals and three goals.

"He was solid the whole series," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "He's been like that the whole playoffs."

Which is one way of saying the Penguins have something all playoff teams covet -- a hot goaltender.

Going into yesterday, Fleury ranked first or second among playoff goaltenders this spring in goals-against average, wins, save percentage and shutouts.

Going into the Eastern Conference final sometime this week against Philadelphia, Fleury is 8-1 with a .938 save percentage and a 1.76 goals-against average.

"He's a really confident guy now," Ruutu said. "Nothing rattles him. Good goals, bad goals, it doesn't affect him. He barely gives up any goals."

Fleury kept the Penguins in yesterday's game early when the Rangers piled up four shots in the first 50 seconds.

"If I can make some key saves early in the game and keep the game close, then I did a good job," Fleury said.

The Penguins staked him to a 2-0 lead in the second period, and then Fleury did an imitation of his intermission self as New York failed to get a shot over the last 14:50 of the second period. New York then got goals from Lauri Korpikoski and Nigel Dawes 1:22 apart early in the third period to tie it.

Fleury was undaunted.

"Couple swear words maybe, I don't know," he said. "It's always tough when a team comes back like that, but we knew they just weren't going to quit. I'm not going to stop all of them. You just try to forget about it right away."

At 2:20 of the third period, Fleury made a game-saving move to stop a tip-in attempt by Rangers veteran Brendan Shanahan.

No sweat.

Before long, he was sitting patiently before overtime started.

"He was still pretty poised," Crosby said.

Which is normal for Fleury.

"He stays real relaxed and calm," Ruutu said. "We trust him.

"When you've got that going, when you're hot, it's easy to play."

Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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