Team Lidstrom rallies after Fleury's slow start
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RALEIGH, N.C. -- Marc-Andre Fleury hadn't been jeered since, well, maybe only since the first month of the season.
But this was different. This wasn't a goaltender whose name is on the Stanley Cup having a rough start to the season for the Penguins, as Fleury did.
This was an NHL All-Star Game, Fleury's first one, where defense is nearly a dirty word. Fleury started for Team [Nicklas] Lidstrom, and after he allowed a fourth goal less than six minutes into the game Sunday, the crowd at RBC Center -- which was partial to Team [Eric] Staal -- derisively taunted Fleury.
"Oh, my God. Give me a break," Fleury said. "I'll see you [Carolina Hurricanes fans] again this year."
But it was a mock threat. Fleury was smiling. Not only did his Team Lidstrom come back for an 11-10 victory, but he also was thrilled just to be in such a star-studded lineup.
"It was a busy weekend, but it was a good time," Fleury said.
Ditto for the Penguins' other representative, defenseman Kris Letang, who scored two goals for Team Staal in what was his first All-Star Game, too.
"I took a lot out of it," Letang said. "I had the chance to chat with [Detroit defenseman] Nick Lidstrom, who was one of my idols, and [San Jose defenseman] Dan Boyle."
Chicago's Patrick Sharp had a goal and two assists for Team Staal and was named game MVP. Nashville defenseman Shea Weber had four assists for Team Lidstrom.
Loui Eriksson of Dallas scored an empty-net goal with 1:11 left in regulation for an 11-9 Team Lidstrom lead. It was his second goal of the game and turned out to be the winner because Staal, of host Carolina, scored with 33.6 seconds left.
Letang, who was paired with Marc Staal of the New York Rangers, was one of five players who had two goals.
He scored at 6:10 of the second period to give Team Staal a 6-4 lead when Vancouver's Daniel Sedin sent an uncontested pass to Washington's Alex Ovechkin from the right circle to the left circle, and Ovechkin easily set up Letang coming down the slot. Letang's rising shot beat Team Lidstrom goaltender Jonas Hiller of Anaheim.
Perhaps only in an All-Star Game would a sniper such as Ovechkin pass up a shot to set up a defenseman.
"There's a lot of guys who passed up shots," Letang said.
He got his second goal at 8:46 of the third period, converting a feed from New Jersey's Patrik Elias to beat Boston goaltender Tim Thomas and pull Team Staal to within 8-7.
Letang also made a couple of gaffes early, including one turnover that led to Eriksson's first-period goal, which allowed Team Staal to close to within 4-3.
"Everybody's all over the ice," Letang said. "You're just trying to find a guy open every time. For the [defensemen], you play a little defense, but mostly you're just spending time in the offense all the time.
"My first mindset was to score goals and not to worry about my defense."
That might be a nice change for a defenseman, but it can be heck for a goaltender.
Letang felt a little bad watching as Fleury repeatedly was left vulnerable, scrambled all over the crease and allowed goals to Ovechkin (at 50 seconds), Colorado's Paul Stastny (2:48), Elias (3:20) and Philadelphia's Claude Giroux (5:41).
"That's why I made, like, three turnovers in a row [to help Fleury's team] tie the game, 4-4," Letang cracked. "He owes me a lot."
Phoenix's Keith Yandle was one of those playing what passed for defense in front of Fleury, who allowed the four goals on 14 shots in his one period of play.
"If it wasn't for him back there, it probably would have been 10-0 in the first 10 minutes," Yandle said. "We put him on the spot.
"To let in four in the first period when guys don't really know what to expect yet and haven't gotten a feel for the game, it's got to be tough for him."
Fleury was asked if nerves at the start of his first All-Star Game were a factor.
"I wasn't that nervous. Did you see the goals?" Fleury deadpanned. "I was getting mad, though."
Not at the way his newly formed team -- Staal and Lidstrom held a "draft" Friday night -- was playing in front of him. He was frustrated with himself despite the circumstances.
"I wanted to do better in stopping the puck," Fleury said. "I wanted to give them a better chance to win. At least we finished the period even."
Team Staal forged a 4-4 tie before the first intermission, and there was never more than a two-goal margin the rest of the game, which was tied four times.
First Published January 31, 2011 12:00 am