The big crowd of 18,579, the Penguins' 313th consecutive sellout, got it all Monday night and went home happy. A 2-1 win in overtime against the Ottawa Senators on a goal by James Neal. A spirited fight between Robert Bortuzzo and the Senators' Zack Smith. And, best of all, an incredible glove save by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to rob Erik Karlsson midway through the third period.
NHL.com immediately speculated it was the save of the year in the league, calling it "insane" and "ridiculous."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said it was the best save he has ever seen Fleury make, maybe the best he has ever seen live.
YouTube video: Fleury makes amazing glove save
The Penguins beat Ottawa in a Monday night game that featured an amazing glove save by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. (YouTube video; 2/4/2014)
"Yes, flat out ... I don't know if there's one better. It was an amazing save."
It was a good thing Fleury was around after his NHL-leading 30th win of the season to keep things in perspective.
"It can't be the best," he said, grinning as usual. "Game 7 in the Stanley Cup."
Fleury's save against Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom in the final seconds of Game 7 in the 2009 final secured a 2-1 win and the Cup for the Penguins.
This one was a close second.
"The athleticism to get over there is one thing," Bylsma said. "But he had to go way up to get the puck. Karlsson didn't shoot it into his glove. He made that save."
It looked as if the Senators were going to take a 2-1 lead when winger Clarke MacArthur's cross-ice pass found Karlsson, seemingly alone to Fleury's left. Fleury slid all the way across his crease and managed to get his left, gloved hand up to snag the puck out of the air. Karlsson dropped to his knees in frustration. If you listened closely, you probably could hear the Consol Energy Center crowd chanting, "Fleur-ry!, Fleur-ry!"
"It's nice," Fleury said of the fans' reaction. "It feels like you're helping the team out. It's a good feeling."
The chant sounded pretty sweet to Fleury's teammates, as well.
"We're fortunate to play in front of him," said defenseman Rob Scuderi, who was on the ice at the time and had a front-row seat for Fleury's save. "We don't like to put him in that spot, but it's nice to know he's back there for us when we do."
Fleury would have had a second consecutive shutout at Consol Energy Center if not for a first-period goal by Stephane Da Costa that gave the Senators a 1-0 lead. "I didn't like that one ... To the short side," Fleury said, fairly spitting out the words.
The save against Karlsson more than made up for it. Earlier, Fleury made a big save on a deflection by Mike Zibanejad. Later, he made a nice stop against Jason Spezza in close.
Fleury has become almost unbeatable at home where he has a 20-3 record this season. It's no wonder he's the first NHL goaltender to 30 wins. This is the fifth consecutive full season he has hit that number.
Not that Fleury was especially impressed.
"Forty wins is the goal," he said. "Always 40."
Fleury won 40 games in 2006-07 and 42 in 2011-12.
All of his home brilliance makes for wonderful nights for Penguins fans, but Fleury knows he will be judged by and remembered for what he does in the playoffs. He had those 42 wins two years ago but didn't play well in a first-round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. He had another superb regular season a year ago, going 23-8 in the 48-game lockout-shortened season, but then lost his starting job to backup Tomas Vokoun in the first round of the postseason against the New York Islanders.
Fleury really hasn't been better than ordinary in the playoffs since he made that fabulous save against Lidstrom in 2009.
His teammates are on record as saying that will change, starting in April. Scuderi was the latest to join that group.
"I wasn't here last year, but I don't sense that anyone in this room has lost any confidence in him. No, not at all."
Actually, the Penguins stood solidly behind Fleury even after he was benched in the Islanders series. All of the players, starting with captain Sidney Crosby, were quick to say they were just as responsible for the Islanders goals. "We didn't do a very good job in front of Marc," Crosby said repeatedly.
The belief in Fleury carried into this season and might be at an all-time high after the save on Karlsson in a hard-fought win against a team desperately trying to climb into the playoff picture.
"All of us believe he's going to play great not only in regular games, but when we need a big save in a big spot in a big game," Scuderi said.
Certainly, Fleury has done nothing to make anyone think otherwise.
Ron Cook: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Cook and Poni" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.