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Shootout Success Propels Penguins

Saturday, 12.19.2009 / 11:37 PM / Features
By Sam Kasan
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Shootout Success Propels Penguins
BUFFALO, NY – The Penguins are starting to become very formulaic with their winning approach these days: superb goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury + clutch shootout performances = victories.

For the second straight game, Marc-Andre Fleury put together a spectacular 65-minute session, followed up by blanking the opponent in the shootout session as the Pittsburgh climbed to victory.

On Thursday, the Penguins defeated division/cross-state rival Flyers in Philadelphia. In the current edition, it was a 2-1 victory over the Sabres in Buffalo.

Fleury proved to be the difference maker once again with 31 saves in regulation and overtime and stoning all three Buffalo players in the shootout session.

“I don’t worry about it too much,” Fleury said of the shootout. “I go one guy at a time. I know that we can get some goals with the guys that we have. It’s going alright. Knock on wood. It feels pretty good to get some wins.”

“We have Fleury in the net. It’s a big factor,” said Kris Letang, who scored the lone goal in the shootout to tip the game in Pittsburgh’s favor. “It gives you confidence. They didn’t score the first goal and I’m going with a cushion. Mentally it’s a big thing. We have a lot of talent. Guys like this give you a chance to win every night.”

Fleury, who is now 4-0 in shootouts this year, shut the door on attempts by Buffalo’s Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Drew Stafford. The highlight of the sequence was an aggressive poke check on Roy to put an exclamation mark on the night.

“We practice shootouts before every game and it helps,” goaltending coach Gilles Meloche said. “You can be confident in your move. If you look in years past, that poke check didn’t work. Now he uses it so much in practice on the shootouts, his confidence is up there every time and it’s working.”

Fleury and Sabres counterpart Patrick Lalime both dueled out one of the most exciting 2-1 games of the year. Throughout the course of the game, both teams traded quality scoring chance after scoring chance and were frustrated by the netminders.

“They have a good team,” Fleury said. “They played hard and didn’t give us much. It was a tough battle.

“It was fun. On both sides there were shots and scoring chances. It was a fun night.”

Fleury and the Penguins penalty killing units came up with a key kill in the final minutes of regulation and another in overtime.

“The guys played great,” Fleury said. “The PK did awesome in front of me. They blocked a lot of shots for me. I gave up some rebounds and they took them away. It was a good team effort.

“The way we fought until the end. We had some penalties but we still battled. The PK did awesome. We played hard until the end. I think that was the key for us.”

Also key for the Penguins was another transcendental performance between the pipes from Pittsburgh’s young goalie.

“He’s tough to beat in practice and it shows in the games,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “He doesn’t like the puck going in period. He makes it tough on teams. He bailed us out a number of times.

“Positionally he’s very sound and he reacts well too. He’s not a robot out there. He moves well. Goalies have to have a good hockey sense and good memories when you’re talking about shootouts. He reads it pretty well.”

“If you do a shootout against Marc-Andre in practice you know that he’s got a bit of a swagger when it comes to shootouts,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’s gotten the opportunity in the last two games and he’s been outstanding, facing some good shooters.”

And with the way Fleury is playing right now, the Penguins might as well stick to their current formula for success.

“(Fleury is) in a groove,” Meloche said. “As a goaltender you get in a groove. He’s on a roll. He’s winning games and when you win games, you’re confidence is way up there. You see the puck like a basketball and that’s where his game is right now.”


 
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