Play of game: Fleury's pretzel save a keeper
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save on Lightning center Dominic Moore in the first period Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
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Jack Riley, the Penguins' original general manager in 1967, is an octogenarian, but nothing about the game has passed him by.
Watching from his perch in the press box, as he has for decades, he offered this poignant observation about the Penguins' chances in these Stanley Cup playoffs: "I've always said: If you don't get the goalkeeping, you're out of business. If you do get it, you're in business. I think we're in business."
Marc-Andre Fleury is only 25, and they stopped referring to his position as "goalkeeping" around the time Jacques Plante donned his first mask.
But be sure that Fleury grasps his importance to the team in this postseason, given the scope of his 32 saves in the 3-0 throttling of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the teams' playoff opener Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
And be equally sure Fleury means business.
"Whatever it takes," he said afterward with sweat still streaming over the trademark casual smile. "I'm just here to stop pucks."
Choosing his best stop on this night is quite the chore, but an argument could be made that it came at 8:52 of the first period, during which he had to be at his sharpest to match Tampa Bay's 14-shot attack.
Lightning Bay defenseman Eric Brewer slapped a 55-foot shot from the left point, and it redirected off the leg of winger Ryan Malone and into Fleury's leg pads. Center Dominic Moore charged in search of the rebound and, when he could not see the puck, he raised his arms.
But the only red light to flash was the complexion of Moore's face.
"I thought it had a pretty good chance of going in," Moore explained. "Credit to him."
But Fleury could not find the puck any more than Moore did. He flopped to his belly, flailed a bit, lost his stick behind the goal line, and the puck popped up in the air in front of his crease.
"I was spinning around there," Fleury said.
The Penguins' Brooks Orpik, the most physical defenseman on either side, kept Malone to the perimeter, but Malone deftly used his right skate to kick it out to his stick, about 10 feet to the left of Fleury. It now appeared certain to be the game's opening goal.
Still prone but still stubborn, Fleury desperately raised both leg pads and his left arm, now contorted like a pretzel, and it was the glove that thwarted Malone's wrister. The puck skipped away harmlessly.
The crowd stood and roared, and they were not the only ones in awe.
"Unbelievable," winger James Neal said. "No matter if he's out of position or not, he's always going to use whatever he's got to make the save."
"What can you say?" defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. "He was so acrobatic, so unbelievable on that play. For us, it seems like he can do something like that every game."
Malone, formerly of the Penguins, has seen plenty of it, too. Enough to give the technique an actual name.
"He did the reverse double-leg stack pad save on me," Malone said. "That was pretty nice, I guess."
Fleury had no name for it, but he goes back to his Quebec childhood with his attempts to make absurd saves, including around-the-house games of street hockey or soccer with younger sister, Marylene.
"It's something I do in practice once in a while, you know," Fleury said. "Once I finally found the puck, it worked out my way."
Fleury had anotheron-the-ice gem in the opening minute of the second: He used the inside of his blocker to thwart Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier's equally stirring attempt to score with his stick between his own legs.
"Great play," Fleury said of Lecavalier's move. "All I had left was my arm on that one."
First Published April 14, 2011 12:27 am