Fleury just misses history in Penguins win against Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Marc-Andre Fleury knows it's going to happen eventually, that it's inevitable he'll own the franchise record for career shutouts.

He also realizes he isn't likely to come much closer to claiming that piece of Penguins history than he did in their 3-1 victory against Winnipeg at the MTS Centre Friday night.

The Penguins were up, 2-0, with less than two minutes to go in regulation when Jets coach Claude Noel replaced goalie Ondrej Pavelec with an extra attacker.

And with 95 seconds remaining, Winnipeg winger Andrew Ladd flipped a close-range backhander past Fleury to slice the Penguins' lead to one and freeze Fleury's career shutout total at 22.

Ladd's goal didn't affect the outcome -- Penguins winger Craig Adams made sure of that by scoring his second goal of the evening into an empty net at 19:32 -- but it ended Fleury's bid to move past Tom Barrasso in the team record book.

"I thought it was finally here," said Fleury, who earned his most recent shutout 26 appearances ago (Feb. 21, 2012). "I guess we'll keep the suspense going a little longer."

Fleury finished with 25 saves and turned in one of his finest performances this season. He was particularly good in the second period, when Winnipeg ran up a 14-9 edge in shots and kept play in the Penguins' end much of the time.

"He was unbelievable," Adams said. "It's too bad we gave one up at the end. When we were under pressure, he stood tall for us."

And he dropped into the crease for them. And threw his legs around for them. And did pretty much everything possible to keep pucks out of his net.

"Marc-Andre Fleury was extremely strong," coach Dan Bylsma said. "A couple of times, he had to come up really big. He was really sharp. A couple of glove saves in particular, he just looked real solid. It was disappointing to see that one sneak in there at the end. I'd have liked to have seen that be a zero."

Fleury was dominant, but winger Beau Bennett got a lot of attention, too. Bennett, the Penguins' first-round draft choice in 2010, made his NHL debut and did not look the least bit out of place at this level, turning in a strong two-way game.

"I had fun out there," Bennett said. "I though the game got easier as it went on."

He logged 11 minutes, 37 seconds of ice time and was credited with one shot, one hit and two blocks.

Bennett's future is as a top-six winger, but a shot-block late in the second period, when he gave up his body to smother a Zach Bogosian shot then cleared the puck out of the Penguins' end, might have been his most impressive sequence.

"The blocked shot probably won over his teammates more than anything else he did in the game," Bylsma said. "It was a great blocked shot. He stuck with it and got the puck out.

"I know the bench was pretty excited to see Beau go down there and make the play."

Bennett, it should be noted, made it clear he never considered doing anything else.

"In the moment, you do it, and you hope nothing bad comes of it," Bennett said. "It hit me in a good spot. It didn't feel great, but I got the puck out of the zone, and that was the real key."

Bennett didn't have the only debut of note Friday night. Jets left winger Eric Tangradi, acquired Wednesday from the Penguins, had a solid first game with his new team and was a physical presence, especially early. He was credited with four hits, all in the opening period.

Adams got the only goal of those 20 minutes after Joe Vitale rushed the puck up the left side, then threw it toward the net.

It took Adams a couple of tries to knock it past Pavelec, but he managed to do it.

"The first one went off my skate, and their guy put it right back on my stick," Adams said. "I got two whacks at it."

Adams had gone 25 games without a goal, but clearly enjoyed the idea of scoring, because he did it again as regulation was winding down.

"If I had more nights like this, I'd make a better living," Adams said. "It's fun. Everybody likes to score goals."

The one Penguins goal Adams didn't score -- by James Neal at 15:11 of the third, during a five-on-three power play -- proved to be the winner. Neal has at least one goal in five of the past six games.

His goal made it possible for the Penguins to run their road record to 7-2, even though they were not at their best for much of the evening.

"It wasn't our best game," Adams said. "But we stuck with it."

Especially Fleury. Almost long enough to make a little history.

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published February 16, 2013 5:00 AM


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