As the seconds ticked down in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 3-0 defeat of the New York Rangers Saturday, the fans’ chants – “Fleury!” – got louder. And the man to whom they were directed heard them.
“That’s how it is when you’re from Pittsburgh,” said Marc-Andre Fleury who, with his 23rd career shutout, now owns the franchise record in that category along with 241 career wins. “The fan support’s great.”
Fleury was also bolstered by the support of his defense. Although the Penguins have now won eight consecutive games, they started the streak primarily by outgunning their opponents with offense. Over the past four games, defense has taken priority, allowing only four goals against.
“I thought our guys did a great job keeping the [Rangers’ 23] shots from far away,” Fleury said. “It’s been great the last few games. For a while there, we gave up a lot of goals, but I think everybody tightened up and has been more conscious about our defensive zone. The guys [are] blocking shots and coming back in the zone to help out; it’s been great for us.”
Saturday, they also got help from secondary scoring. Rookie Beau Bennett continued to solidify his place in the lineup, collecting his second goal and seventh point in 14 games as he opened the scoring with a blast into the far corner of the net behind Henrik Lundqvist. And six-year veteran Tyler Kennedy drew a penalty, then scored on the resulting power play to make it 2-0.
“That felt pretty good tonight,” said Kennedy, who’s had a disappointing season offensively with just seven points (4G, 3A) in 29 games. “I’m just trying to play hard and keep it simple.”
“I think he’s done a good job of being effective over the last four or five games skating, being physical, playing his type of game,” said head coach Dan Bylsma. “Tonight he gets rewarded with the power play goal, but … I think, the last few games, he’s done a really good job of playing against the other team’s top lines in a matchup role. He’s an effective player for our team and plays a big role.”
Pascal Dupuis notched the third goal. The 33-year-old winger had a career season last year with 25 goals in 82 games; this year, he already has 14 in 29 and has quietly crept into the league’s top 10 goal scorers.
“[The plays] just work right now. They seem to go in, so I’ll knock on wood, but it’s a great feeling,” Dupuis said. “Confidence is a big part. You can work as hard as you can out there but, if you don’t play with confidence, you won’t make the right plays all the time. Playing with Sid [Crosby] and Kuni [Chris Kunitz], these two unbelievable players, that helps quite a bit.”
With the win, the Penguins took at least a temporary hold atop the Eastern Conference with 42 points. And the 28-year-old netminder who has led them to 15 of their 21 wins was glad to finally break the tie he’s held with Tom Barrasso since February 21, 2012, to take his place atop the franchise’s record books.
“I tried not to jinx it; I was touching wood,” Fleury said. “I was looking forward to getting it, finally.”
“He was unbelievable today,” Bennett said. “You see how calm he is in the net, directing traffic and moving pucks toward our D-men, and our D did a really good job, too. They were clearing out the net for him, he was able to see shots, and it was kind of a collective shutout effort for sure.”