Marc-Andre Fleury was flawless Sunday night.
He really didn't have much choice.
Not if the Penguins were going to tie their Eastern Conference second-round playoff series with the New York Rangers, anyway.
Bylsma discusses Game 2 win over Rangers
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma talks about his team's 3-0 win over the Rangers in the second game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. (Video by Matt Freed; 5/4/2014)
Perfection, after all, was practically the only thing that eluded Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the Penguins' 3-0 victory at Consol Energy Center in Game 2 of the series.
Well, that and a couple of pucks.
None of the 22 New York launched at Fleury got past him, however, so the Penguins have tied the series, 1-1, heading into Game 3 at 7:38 p.m. today at Madison Square Garden.
"He played outstanding," said defenseman Kris Letang, who scored the game-winning goal.
The shutout was the seventh of Fleury's playoff career, moving him past Tom Barrasso and into first place on the franchise's all-time list, as well as his 50th postseason victory.
It also was one of his finest playoff performances since the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, even though he wasn't under serious assault for extended periods most of the game.
"It wasn't the busiest night," Fleury said.
Whether he'll be more busy this evening is difficult to predict.
The Rangers will be at home, but Game 3 will be their sixth game in nine days, a grueling stretch with few, if any, equals in recent playoff history.
And while the Rangers have insisted for days that fatigue wouldn't be a factor for them, it certainly appeared to be Sunday, as the Penguins controlled play for much of the game.
Not that New York coach Alain Vigneault believed his players were tired. Or should have been, anyway.
"Was our goaltender tired?" he said. "He was on top of his game. He wasn't tired. I don't think anyone else should be tired. He's played every minute of these playoffs. So if he's not tired, nobody else should be."
If fatigue was, in fact, an issue Sunday, it presumably will be again this evening, when the Penguins try to reclaim the home-ice advantage they surrendered by losing the opener.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby failed to score a goal for the 13th consecutive playoff game, but his performance made coach Dan Bylsma's pregame prediction -- "I expect him to be at his best tonight, I really do" -- seem hopelessly understated.
Crosby had his finest showing of these playoffs. He was visible every time he went over the boards, and a force on almost every shift.
He recorded a team-high six shots and a couple of hits and handled 26 faceoffs, going 13-13.
And even though Crosby has failed to record a point in consecutive games against Lundqvist for the first time in his career, the Penguins surely were satisfied with his work, and will be glad any time he can replicate it.
Letang, who played his fourth consecutive strong game, gave the Penguins the only goal they would need at 10:26 of the second period.
He threw a centering pass toward the net from the right side, with the intent of setting up left winger Chris Kunitz, who was driving to the net.
The puck never made it to Kunitz, however, as Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi inadvertently deflected it behind Lundqvist.
"It looked like it deflected off [Kunitz's] stick," Letang said. "But I think he told the referee [he didn't touch it]. We'll take it. It doesn't matter who got it."
Letang's goal was the 15th of his playoff career, tying Larry Murphy's franchise record.
It was the only goal the Penguins would get until 16:30 of the third, when Jussi Jokinen knocked in an Evgeni Malkin rebound on a power play to put the Penguins up by two. And to stretch his career-best scoring streak to six games.
And when the Rangers replaced Lundqvist with an extra attacker, Malkin closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal with 53.5 seconds remaining.
Winning Game 2 allowed the Penguins to avoid slipping into an 0-2 hole, a deficit that would have been tough to overcome.
"We definitely needed that one," Brandon Sutter said. "It was a good building block for us. Now we have to go into MSG and try to get the next one."
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published May 4, 2014 10:24 PM