Lightning's Malone an unwelcomed guest in Fleury's 'house'
April 21, 2011 5:00 AM
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury defends the net against Lightning forward Ryan Malone during Wednesday's Game 4 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
TAMPA, Fla.-- When you're a goaltender patrolling your crease, two's a crowd.
The goalies in the Penguins' 3-2 double-overtime win against Tampa Bay Wednesday night had a lot of impromptu house guests.
"That's how it is in the playoffs," said goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 29 saves for the Game 4 win that gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.
"It's something we goalies expect -- to have big bodies in front trying to screen us, tip the puck, get rebounds, or just get in our way. I thought the refs talked to the players in front and made some calls."
In fact, most of the seven penalties in the game came not far from --or in -- the crease.
Midway through the second period, former Penguins winger Ryan Malone and Fleury got tangled. It seemed as if Fleury might have tripped Malone, but Malone got called for goaltender interference.
"He got a penalty on me, and he wasn't happy with that," Fleury said. "But before that he gave me a stick in the stomach. It's part of the game. He plays hard. I try my best. We both try to win. I have a lot of respect for him. That's just how it is."
In the final minute of the second period, Penguins winger James Neal got a goalie interference penalty after he appeared to get shoved by Tampa Bay defenseman Mattias Ohlund into Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson.
Early in the third period, Fleury found Lightning winger Sean Bergenheim in his lap, perhaps with some help from Penguins defenseman Paul Martin, but there was no call.
It was Malone again early in the first overtime. He wound up pinned in the crease for several seconds. Again, there was no penalty.
Malone -- a 6-foot-4, 219-pound power forward who earns his living primarily by effectively crashing the crease -- likely was playing a little hurt, although the Lightning denied it. Malone collided with Neal early in Game 3 and did not play much again in that game until the third period and did not skate with his team Tuesday or Wednesday morning.
But if he is able to play, Malone is likely to be found annoying a goaltender at close range.
Malone, an Upper St. Clair native who helped the Penguins reach the 2008 Stanley Cup final, and Fleury exchanged good-natured barbs through the media before the series regarding Malone's anticipated presence in Fleury's face.
Told Fleury expected to see a lot of a certain side of Malone all series, Malone smiled.
"My derriere," Malone said. "Hopefully, he likes it. Hopefully, it will be right there in front of him a lot."
It has been. The Lightning regularly do drills in practice to work on a net-front presence, and Malone seems to get more reps than his teammates.
"Trying to play defense or trying to push Ryan Malone out of the crease once he gets there is not really an option," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's going to put the 'tripod' up and he's going to be a factor."
Malone isn't just a statue with his stick on the ice when he sets up in Fleury's domain. There is some banter.
"We talk, yeah," Fleury said. "I tell him to move his big butt. He doesn't listen, though. He always stays right in my face."
Malone laughed before Game 1 when that was relayed to him.
"Sometimes, he's laughing," Malone said. "I don't know what he's doing back there. I'm actually trying to look at the puck."
Fleury wouldn't divulge which choice words he says to Malone, saying only that through four playoff games the two have exchanged thoughts "a little bit here and there."