I don’t know if you heard about this or not (you definitely did), but Thursday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins was kind of a big deal for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
After spending the past 13 seasons wearing a Penguins uniform, it finally came time for Fleury to reunite with his former team. This time, though, he’d be wearing a Vegas Golden Knights uniform.
The story has been well documented. After winning three Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh, Fleury became expendable following the emergence of netminder Matt Murray. When June’s expansion draft came around, it became clear that Murray, not Fleury, meant more to Pittsburgh’s long-term plans.
And, of course, you know the rest.
Despite only appearing in five games this season, Fleury has been frighteningly good as the Golden Knights’ primary backstop. And he’d need to continue that tremendous play against the Penguins, who are stacked with high-end talent. Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and, of course, Sidney Crosby, are some of the best hockey players the world has to offer. So how would Fleury fair against his former teammates?
Pretty damn well. And so did another former Penguin.
Less than two minutes into the contest, James Neal, who spent four seasons in a Penguins uniform, opened up the scoring thanks to a big rebound caused by defenseman Colin Miller.
As for Fleury, it didn’t take long for him to make some incredible stops against his former team. A quarter of the way through the first period, Fleury fought off a mad scramble in front of the net and literally ninja kicked a puck out of harm’s way.
Just over a minute later, he made another highlight-reel stop. But this time, he came way out of his crease to do it.
He’s a lunatic. And it’s a joy to watch.
As fun as it would have been to see Fleury get a shutout against his former team, though, some things just aren’t meant to be.
Defenseman Ian Cole received a perfect feed from the spinning Carl Hagelin and took full advantage of a wide open net. Fleury was totally fooled.
But he wouldn’t be fooled again.
Fleury was unbeatable in the middle third. Despite some terrific chances for the Penguins, Fleury simply would not be denied.
One particular save, though, really caught my attention.
Hmmmm. Why does this look so familiar?
Oh yeah! He made this exact same save to win the Stanley Cup in 2009.
That recreation of the Stanley Cup-winning save was just one of several dandies Fleury made in the second period to keep the game tied up.
In the third period, the Golden Knights took a 2-1 lead following a goal from a highly unlikely source.
Defenseman Jon Merrill, of all people, who has played in just six games this season, beat Murray with a laser off a perfect drop pass from Erik Haula.
Minutes later, Tomas Nosek nearly doubled the Golden Knights’ lead, but Murray was having none of it.
Despite Murray’s stellar play, however, it was Fleury, who stopped 24 of 25 shots on the night, who would walk out of the T-Mobile Arena with the win.
For the first time in his career, Fleury beat his former team. The only team he’d played for for 13 years.
Something tells me this won’t be a game Fleury will soon forget.
The Golden Knights will be back in action Sunday against the Florida Panthers at the T-Mobile Arena. Like Fleury, head coach Gerard Gallant will be facing off against his former team in that contest.