Penguins beat Canucks 4-3 in shootout

Give Vancouver a do-over, and perhaps the Canucks would try something a bit different during the shootout.

Maybe not rely on getting within a few feet of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, then trying to slide a puck between his legs or beyond the reach of his pads.

Perhaps toss something at him from a bit farther out.

Like, say, the neutral zone.

It worked once in the Penguins' 4-3 victory against the Canucks Saturday at Consol Energy Center, which is one more time than Vancouver was able to beat Fleury in three rounds of the shootout.

Indeed, Evgeni Malkin was the only player on either team to get a goal then, and that was enough to bump them to 7-1 in the first eight games of 2013-14.

But the Penguins might never have been in position to improve their record at Consol Energy Center to 5-0 -- their best start at home since winning seven in a row to begin the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season -- if Fleury had dwelled on the goal he donated to the Canucks at 13:49 of the opening period.

Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler was about one stride over the red line when he launched the puck directly into Fleury's chest.

"Somehow, it had some spin and went over my head and I lost it," Fleury said. "And it was in the net."

But even though he lost sight of that puck, he didn't lose his composure or focus. Good thing for the Penguins, too, because they needed every one of the season-high 36 saves he made, as well as three more stops during the shootout, to escape with a couple of points.

"I said a couple of bad words to start [after Edler scored], then relaxed," Fleury said. "I kind of laughed at myself a little bit, when we scored a goal. It's a lot more fun to laugh at it now that we have won."

The victory was made possible, in large part, by Fleury's ability to maintain his concentration, because Vancouver ran up a 39-28 advantage in shots.

"I think they out-chanced us, but maybe not by what the shots might have [indicated]," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said.

Still, while that shots margin was inflated a bit because the Canucks threw a number of long-distance ones at Fleury, he turned aside everything that he had even a remote chance of stopping after Edler's goal.

"He was huge after that," winger Pascal Dupuis said.

The Canucks were the first 2013 playoff team the Penguins have faced this season, and looked the part. They played a strong two-way game, and the impact of first-year coach John Tortorella on their defensive play was easy to see.

"They were really good," said Penguins left winger Tanner Glass, a Canucks alum. "Tortorella really has them playing tight defensively, blocking a lot of shots. They're tough to play against."

So is Crosby, who had a goal and two assists to run his league-leading points total to 17.

The Canucks, of course, were well aware of Crosby long before they got to town.

They probably didn't have much of a book on rookie defenseman Olli Maatta, who appeared in just his eighth NHL game.

Vancouver knows him now, however, because Maatta scored his first goal by punching a Chris Kunitz rebound past Luongo at 13:12 of the third period to tie the score, 3-3.

Maatta can dress for one more game before the Penguins have to decide whether to send him back to his junior team, London of the Ontario Hockey League.

If they keep him for a 10th game, it will trigger the first season of his three-year entry level contract.

While the Penguins have not announced their intentions -- and do not have to finalize any decision just yet -- there is strong sentiment inside the organization to keep him.

That doesn't mean Maatta would be a lock to spend the season in the NHL, however. If he stays past Game No. 9, the next deadline would come at 40 games, the point at which he would be credited with a season-played, for purposes of determining free agency.

Maatta has impressed not because he doesn't make mistakes, but because he doesn't repeat them.

And, as Fleury demonstrated, even a costly error doesn't have to sour an entire game.

"Today wasn't our best game," Crosby said. "But [Fleury] shut the door when he needed to."

Didn't matter at all that he had slammed it on his fingers earlier in the day.


Dave Molinari: or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published October 19, 2013 11:52 AM


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