The Pittsburgh Penguins owe much of their Game 5 and first round series victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, to the heroics of veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Before the series began, Fleury was preparing to be the Penguins “Ace in hole”, should tragedy befall “heir apparent” to the Penguins goaltending throne – Matt Murray. He found himself thrust into action after Murray re-aggravated a lower-body injury during Game 1 warm-ups.
Top Five Marc-Andre Fleury Playoff Performances
Fleury responded with all the poise and professionalism you would expect, from a player who has appeared in 105 career playoff games.
It wasn’t the first time Fleury was called upon to make over 40 saves in a playoff game. So, in honor of Fleury’s 49-save performance (second highest career total), here is a look at his Top 5 Playoff Performances ranked by save total:
5. 40 Saves – April 22, 2010, Vs Ottawa Senators – Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals.
Fleury faced 44 shots in a game that was “do or die” for the Senators, as the Penguins held a 3-1 series lead and looking to close it out in front of the home crowd.
Despite blasting Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire with 59 Shots, it was the Sens Matt Carkner (Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher) who squeaked the winner past Fleury at 7:10 of the overtime period, giving the Senators a 4-3 win and shifting the series back to Ottawa for game 6.
4. 41 Saves – April 19, 2014, Vs Columbus Blue Jackets – Eastern First Round.
Fleury faced 45 shots in a game that saw the Blue Jackets and Penguins battle into a second overtime frame.
Matt Calvert scored the winner at 1:10 after Jussi Jokinen lost his footing behind the red line, creating a turnover that ended up in the back of the Penguins net. The Blue Jackets squared the series up at 1 game apiece claiming a 4-3 Victory.
3. 42 Saves – April 23, 2014, Vs Columbus Blue Jackets – Eastern First Round.
Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t waste much time in turning in another high save performance, as he was once again thrust into a busy night that saw him face 46 shots from a highly spirited and desperate Blue Jackets squad.
Nick Foligno played the overtime hero this time, capitalizing on a Penguins turnover, scoring the winner at 2:49.
Columbus won the game 4-3 and tied the series up at two games a piece.
2. 45 Saves – April 21, 2009, Vs Philadelphia Flyers – Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals
We need to travel back to the 2009 Stanley Cup run to find Fleury’s second highest save total before Game Five.
The Penguins were up two games to one and looking to take a 3-1 stranglehold on the series, as it shifted back to Pittsburgh.
Fleury turned in a brilliant performance, facing 46 Flyers shots, only allowing one goal by Daniel Carcillo at 11:44 of the third period.
The Penguins held on, taking a 3-1 victory and matching series lead.
55 Saves – June 2, 2008, Vs Detroit Redwings – Stanley Cup Final
With their backs against the wall, the Penguins had no choice but to focus on cracking the Chris Osgood code and easing up on the defensive side of the ice.
Fleury was up to the challenge and was under siege, most of the night, turning in a legendary performance, facing 58 Detroit shots and giving the Penguins a chance to claim a Game 5 victory and an opportunity to square the series up back in Pittsburgh.
Petr Sykora would ensure Marc-Andre Fleury’s performance was not in vain, by striking the game-winner on the power play at 9:57 of the third overtime, earning the Penguins a 4-3 victory and a chance to tie the series back in Pittsburgh.
If Murray’s injury persists and Fleury continues to be pressed into action, general manager Jim Rutherford will be happy that he decided to keep the 32-year old Sorel-Tracy native for the playoffs. One has to look back no further than last season when the Pens needed three goaltenders to complete their championship run. Based on his past experience in monumental games, Fleury may have a chance to add another performance to this list before his team’s run is over.