Fleury records second shutout as Penguins beat Islanders
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save on Islanders forward Matt Moulson in the third period of Tuesday's game at at the Consol Energy Center.
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This was not the first time this season Marc-Andre Fleury had been closing in on a shutout as the third period was winding down.
Heck, it barely was the first time this week.
It had happened just last Saturday. And last Tuesday. And on several other occasions in recent months.
But this time, Fleury decided, would be different.
This time, there would be no late goals to spoil his shootout, or to jeopardize a Penguins victory.
"I just tried to stay calm," Fleury said. "There wasn't much of a margin for error."
None at all, actually.
Then again, Fleury didn't need any, as he stopped all 29 shots the New York Islanders threw at him Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center to lead the Penguins to a 1-0 victory and earn his second shutout of the season.
After losing six of his first seven decisions in 2010-11, Fleury is 22-5-2 in his past 29.
Or, put another way, he has won more than three times as many games during that stretch as Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin has played in at this level.
Poulin is in the NHL only because Evgeni Nabokov refused to join New York after it claimed him on waivers last week, but didn't look the least bit out of place while making just his seventh NHL appearance.
"It was a great battle between me and Fleury, I guess," Poulin said.
That seems like a bit of an understatement, since Fleury was perfect and Poulin stopped 30 of 31 shots, being beaten only when Craig Adams threw an Arron Asham rebound by him at 8:35 of the third period.
"I just swept at it," Adams said, "and it went through his legs."
Although the Penguins knew very little about Poulin, who is only 20, before the game, they have a well-honed appreciation for him now.
"He was really good," Adams said. "We didn't have a bunch of glorious chances, but we definitely had some good ones."
They might have had a few better ones if injured centers Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (sinus infection, knee) had been in uniform, but the Penguins were without both for the third consecutive game.
And even though they have played nine in a row without Crosby, who had a comfortable lead in the NHL scoring race when he left the lineup nearly three weeks ago, they've been able to arrive at the all-star break on a 5-1 roll.
"We've managed to put a couple of wins together heading into the break and give us a good feeling," left winger Matt Cooke said. "Learning how to win without the Two-Headed Monster just allows us to be that much better of a team when they come back."
Even though the Penguins have played pretty well since Crosby was injured, at least after a two- or three-game adjustment period, the fact remains that they have lost to Ottawa, the Islanders and New Jersey -- the three clubs anchored at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings -- since the holiday break last month.
Contenders can't afford to surrender too many points like those, although Cooke cautioned against putting too much emphasis on losses to opponents with poor records.
"Any team can win on any night," he said. "It's tough to win. You approach every game wanting to win, but I wouldn't classify the New Jersey Devils as a bad team. I wouldn't classify these guys as a bad team. They gave us a lot tonight, and they're a very dangerous offensive hockey club."
The Penguins reached the all-star break with a 31-15-4 record. That's good for second in the Atlantic Division, five points behind Philadelphia.
"You could see on certain nights where our game is pretty good," said Adams. "We just need to be more consistent. We've probably blown, what, five games this year? Legitimately blown them. So, we should have more points than we do. But, going into the break with 31 wins or whatever, I think we're happy with where we're at. And we know we have a lot of room to get better."
First Published January 26, 2011 12:00 am