Fleury understands it's time to forget Game 1 loss

Remember that save Marc-Andre Fleury made on a Jaromir Jagr breakaway in the first period Wednesday?

How about when he scrambled across the crease early in the second to stop a Scott Hartnell deflection and preserve a 3-0 lead?

Or when he gloved a Matt Carle shot from just above the left hash mark as the middle of the third period approached and the Penguins were trying desperately to hold off the Flyers?

Fleury does. Goalies are like that.

But he also understands that there are times when the details just don't matter much. When the big picture -- like Philadelphia rallying for a 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 of the Penguins' first-round playoff series against the Flyers -- is the only thing truly worth looking at.

Scouting report
  • Matchup: Philadelphia Flyers at Penguins, 7:38 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
  • TV/Radio: Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).
  • Series: Flyers lead, 1-0.
  • Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Ilya Bryzgalov for Flyers.
  • Penguins: Have lost four consecutive home playoff games. ... C Evgeni Malkin has one goal in his past 10 playoff games. ... Are 8-8 in 16 home playoff games against Philadelphia.
  • Flyers: Are 18-12 in Game 2 after winning Game 1. ... C Claude Giroux has 13 goals, 25 assists in 41 career playoff games. ... Have won consecutive games at least once in five of past six series.
  • Hidden stat: Penguins have 22-7 record in Game 2s on home ice, but have lost past two.

"It doesn't matter how you lose, or what happened," Fleury said Thursday. "Whether it's 2-1 or 6-1, it's a loss. That's all that counts."

The Penguins will have an opportunity to even the series in Game 2 at 7:38 tonight at Consol Energy Center. If Fleury performs at -- or above -- the level he reached Wednesday, their chances of doing that should be reasonably good.

That, at least, is the considered opinion of goaltending coach Gilles Meloche, who praised Fleury's work in the opener and said he "thought he made five or six big saves, key saves at the right time."

Fleury's only mistake of consequence, Meloche said, was trying to poke-check the puck from Flyers forward Daniel Briere earlier than he should have after Briere got behind the Penguins defense in the second period.

The poke check is a high-risk, high-reward move for goalies, and one of Fleury's favorites.

A less skilled or less patient shooter might have gotten flustered, but Briere was able to adjust and bury a shot high in the net behind him to slice the Penguins' lead to 3-1.

Meloche absolved Fleury of responsibility for the other goals -- a screened shot by Briere, a Brayden Schenn deflection during a power play and Jakub Voracek's winner, when he swept the puck into the open right side of the net.

"Just one of those games," Meloche said.

One that doesn't necessarily doom the Penguins to an early departure from the playoffs, but also one on which they cannot afford to dwell.

"You have to forget about it quick," Fleury said. "Learn from what happened, your mistakes and stuff, but forget about it quick."

Doing so is especially important because the success of Fleury's season, like that of his team, will be determined by what happens in the playoffs.

If the offseason begins sometime this month, 2011-12 will be deemed an abject failure, and those 108 points they earned during the regular season -- many while playing without core members of their lineup -- will be worth about as much as $5 of counterfeit Confederate currency.

And so it is with Fleury. If he can't help to carry the Penguins deep into the playoffs, it won't matter that he came within one victory of tying the single-season franchise record or that he performed well enough to merit support in voting for the Vezina Trophy, which goes to the NHL's top goalie.

"That's always how it is," he said. "During the season, you always want to make the playoffs, or try to win the conference and have home ice. But, in the end, what really matters is what you do in the playoffs."

Impressive as Fleury's regular-season statistics -- a 42-17-4 record, 2.36 goals-against average and .913 save percentage -- were, the most striking aspect of his game in 2011-12 was his consistency.

"There weren't as many ups and downs," Fleury said. "And, when there was a down, it wasn't as long, maybe."

Indeed, while he wasn't at his best every night, but he wasn't far from it very often, either.

Sharing a locker room with Evgeni Malkin, the likely league MVP, might have cost Fleury a little national attention, but the guys he works for and with realize how reliable he's been.

"That's, by far, his best year, consistent-wise," Meloche said. "There were maybe two or three games all year where you'd say, 'Well, he didn't make the save to win us a game' out of 60-some games."

Goaltending, so critical to a team's success in the regular season, is even more important in the playoffs. Witness last spring, when Dwayne Roloson of Tampa Bay almost singlehandedly ran the Penguins out of the postseason.

"The goalie beat us," Meloche said.

"Goalies can do that in the playoffs."

And Fleury, he said, is one of those capable of it.

"He can do that to a team," Meloche said.

"I have no doubt about it."


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 April 13, 2012 4:45 PM


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