PITTSBURGH (AP) — Maybe now the questions about Marc-Andre Fleury’s ability on the big stage will stop.
After rescuing Pittsburgh with a 14-save second period in Game 3, Fleury came back two nights later and
stopped 37 shots overall to lift the Penguins to a 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday that
knotted the Stanley Cup finals at two games apiece.
“From a distance, I always saw the questions from the media,” said coach Dan Bylsma, who took over behind
the Penguins bench in February. “His record and the times he stood up for this team both at the end of
the season and the playoffs is pretty significant.”
The Penguins played what they called their worst period of the playoffs Tuesday night in Game 3. That
second period was scoreless, but only because of Fleury.
While he was stopping all the shots he faced in that period of a game his team couldn’t lose, the offense
generated only four on Detroit’s Chris Osgood.
The landscape changed in dramatic fashion in Game 4, but it sure looked like much of the same in the
first minute of the second period.
Pittsburgh held a 1-0 lead for much of the first before Darren Helm tied it with 1:41 left. The Red Wings
needed only 46 seconds of the middle frame to go ahead and quiet what had been a celebratory crowd.
Fleury went back into shutdown mode from there. After making 18 saves in the first, he came back with
eight in the second and nine more in the scoreless third to hold off the Red Wings.
Quite a turnaround from last year when Detroit won three of the first four games from Pittsburgh in the
finals and closed out the Penguins in six — earning the final two victories on enemy ice.
“We want to make sure we make life on him as easy as possible,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of
Fleury. “We don’t always do that, but you know we try to. We did a good job of putting a lot of pressure
in the offensive zone and creating some good chances. That’s a big key for our team. That’s where we
want to play.
“We definitely owed him one for sure.”
While Osgood is shooting for his fourth Stanley Cup ring — third as the Red Wings’ starting goalie — and
adding to his impressive resume, Fleury is trying to live up to the fanfare he got when he was chosen
with the first pick in the 2003 draft.
Overall in these playoffs, Fleury is 14-7 with a 2.60 goals-against average and a save percentage of
about 91 percent.
“Fleury has been there for us throughout the whole season,” said Jordan Staal, whose short-handed goal
tied it at 2 in the second period. “It’s great as a player to be confident in the way he’s playing. He
always seems to find a way to win games and make those big saves at the right time.
“That’s what good goaltenders do, and Flower has done a great job of that so far.”
Osgood helped the Red Wings build a 6-2 goals advantage in the first two games and created the impression
he was outplaying his Pittsburgh counterpart. That wasn’t hard to do considering he owned the best
career winning percentage in the finals of .833.
After back-to-back losses in Pittsburgh, in which the Penguins outscored Detroit 8-4, Osgood is down to
.714 (10-4) and not the clear-cut top goalie in the series anymore.
Fleury also has backstopped his club to consecutive appearances in the finals.
“I prefer my team, I prefer my teammates,” said Fleury, 4-6 in Stanley Cup finals games. “No matter what
people say or write about me doesn’t matter. Every night I’ll try my best. I’ll try to stop pucks.
“There will be some rough nights, but the most important thing is to forget about it as quick as possible
and to start over again in the next one.”