Fleury, Penguins up to Boston challenge, win 2-1

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BOSTON -- TD Garden is not the most hospitable venue in the NHL.

The team that resides there is big, tough and talented, and fans can be pretty hostile at times.

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is aware of all that. Probably more than most.

It just doesn't seem to matter to Fleury, who turned aside 28 of 29 Boston shots Saturday afternoon to lead the Penguins to a 2-1 victory against the Bruins.

Scouting report
  • Matchup: Penguins at New Jersey Devils, 1:08 p.m., Prudential Center.
  • TV, radio: Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).
  • Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Martin Brodeur for Devils.
  • Penguins: Have won at least one game in New Jersey in 14 of past 15 seasons. ... C Evgeni Malkin has six goals, six assists in 11 games against Atlantic Division opponents. ... Have not allowed more than one power-play goal in a game since Nov. 29.
  • Devils: Are 14-9-2 on home ice, including 3-1 victory against Penguins Dec. 31. ... LW Alexei Ponikarovsky has two goals, three assists in five games since joining Devils. ... Have gone 4-8 in games decided by three or more goals.
  • Hidden stat: Devils have been outscored, 67-41, in third period this season.

The victory was the Penguins' ninth in their past 10 games and, even more impressive, ran Fleury's career record on the road against the Bruins to 5-1-1.

"It's fun to play here," he said. "It's always loud, and they have a good team, so the pace is fast and the game is always intense. I just like to play here."

So do his teammates, it seems, considering they have run off four victories in a row at the Garden.

The latest one raised their record to 30-18-4, putting them one point behind fourth-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference as they prepare to visit New Jersey at 1:08 p.m. today.

The Bruins are second in the East but have been sputtering in recent weeks; they are 4-5-1 in their past 10 games and have lost consecutive games at home for the first time since Oct. 22-27.

Nonetheless, they remain one of the NHL's most formidable teams. That has been particularly true in the third period, when Boston has outscored its opponents, 72-35.

The Penguins broke even in the final 20 minutes Saturday, however, which was all they needed to do to leave town with a couple of points.

Evgeni Malkin had spotted them a 1-0 lead when he scored a power-play goal with 8.1 seconds left in the first period, knocking a Chris Kunitz rebound past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas for his team-leading 28th of the season.

Matt Cooke ran the lead to 2-0, swatting in a loose puck from the crease at 1:53 of the third, and his insurance goal morphed into the winner when Bruins defenseman Joe Corvo's wrist shot from the left point made it through a Brad Marchand screen and eluded Fleury.

That was the only one of the 29 pucks the Bruins launched at him that got by Fleury, however, as he added another pearl to a string of recent outstanding performances.

"Marc was exceptional," coach Dan Bylsma said.

His rebound control, in particular, was strong, and that, coupled with some quality work in front of the net by his teammates, limited the number of close-range opportunities the Bruins got.

"They were doing a good job boxing out, and, when the goalie can see it coming from the blue line ... even if it's a hard shot, he's going to stop it more times than not," Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk said.

The Penguins did some of their best defensive work in the middle of the second period after Pascal Dupuis received a double-minor for high-sticking Tyler Seguin of the Bruins.

Boston generated five shots on goal while Dupuis was in the box, but could not manufacture a goal to counter the one Malkin had scored.

"To step up and get a four-minute kill at that point in the game was pretty good," Cooke said.

That helped to keep the crowd out of the game, something both teams apparently had conspired to do for most of the first 20 minutes. Labeling the play then "sluggish" would be charitable.

"It wasn't the best hockey, maybe, to watch," Fleury said. "In the second, the tempo went up, and the guys played the way they should."

There were some daunting streaks on the line when the Penguins took a 1-0 lead into the third period -- they were 15-0-2 when leading after 40 minutes, while Boston had strung together eight consecutive victories against Atlantic Division opponents -- and Cooke eased the pressure on his teammates by scoring for the second time in three games.

And he did it with a stick that debuted against the Bruins.

He made no radical adjustment to his curve or anything like that. The change was strictly superficial.

"It's the exact same stick," Cooke said. "Just a different paint job."

The details do not matter. What counts is Cooke's goal provided the margin of victory against a quality opponent that happens to be the defending Stanley Cup champion.

"We beat a good team," Fleury said.

That's something the Penguins have done pretty consistently in Boston during the past few years.

Perhaps because they have a goalie who loves coming here.

For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @molinaripg . First Published February 5, 2012 5:00 AM


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