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"Flower" Powers Pens' Defensive Effort

Tuesday, 01.25.2011 / 10:52 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
Tuesday’s game between the Penguins and the New York Islanders turned out to be a goaltending duel between Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury and the New York Islanders’ Kevin Poulin.

And it was “Flower” who won the battle, as he made 29 saves – including 12 in the first period – en route to earning his second whitewashing of the season and the 18th of his career in the Penguins’ 1-0 victory at CONSOL Energy Center.

Fleury admitted he was hoping for a shutout, as he had come close to getting one in each of the last few games only to have his bids stymied late.

“It seems like the last couple of games I couldn’t get a shutout,” Fleury said. “I was hoping to get one.”

His coaches and teammates couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of the goose egg.

“We did make some mistakes and he was there every time, real strong,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He deserves a shutout going into the All-Star Game.”

Fleury has been putting up arguably his most consistent stretch of hockey since entering the league in 2003. He’s been a workhorse between the pipes for the Penguins, getting the nod in 29 of Pittsburgh’s last 33 games.

The 26-year-old netminder has posted a 22-5-2 record in those games, allowing two-or-fewer goals in 21 of his 29 starts.

“He’s been good all year,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “We just talked about it, (Craig) Adams said, ‘Flower, good job. Again.’ It sounds like a broken record, but he’s been great. You always saw even when he was 18, he had really good games making 50 saves a night, but this is by far the most consistent he’s been.”

Bylsma agreed.

RELATED: Aftermath: Penguins 1, Islanders 0  >>

We just talked about it, (Craig) Adams said, ‘Flower, good job. Again.’ It sounds like a broken record, but he’s been great. You always saw even when he was 18, he had really good games making 50 saves a night, but this is by far the most consistent he’s been. - Brooks Orpik
"He’s always had the propensity to make that big save and be that guy for us," Bylsma said. "But to be solid in scrums, solid in every aspect and real consistent in his play, this is probably the highest level we’ve seen him at for a long period of time."

Fleury led an overall outstanding defensive effort by the Penguins, who now have a 2.24 goals-against average that ranks second overall behind Boston (2.16). The Penguins have given up two-or-fewer goals in eight of their past 10 games and 25 of their last 34 contests. 

And that’s playing without captain Sidney Crosby for the last nine contests and second-leading scorer Evgeni Malkin for the previous three.

“Especially with those two guys (out), it would have been easy for us to come here and just kind of feel sorry for ourselves,” Orpik said. “Guys did a really good job of practicing really hard and transiting it into the game.”

What also helped was that Penguins continued to get contributions from secondary sources to earn their second-straight win, with forward Craig Adams being Tuesday’s hero.

Adams scored his first even-strength goal as a Penguin with 11:24 remaining in the third. The goal, which proved to be the game-winning tally, was his third of the season. His other two tallies came shorthanded.

“(Dustin Jeffrey) won the faceoff and got a shot on net, (Arron Asham) got the rebound and I got the second one,” Adams said of his goal. “It was on my stick and then I just whacked at it, I think it went between (Poulin’s) legs.”
Goals from players like Adams will continue to come if the Penguins keep playing the right way.

“We played really well. We set the tone. You could tell right from the start from every guy that we came to finish this off the right way before the break,” Bylsma said. “We get a face-off, detail goal from Craig Adams. The game-winner came from an unlikely source, but it is part of how we play with the detail. It gets Flower the 1-0 win.”
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