See the difference between Good Fleury and Bad Fleury? If Montreal-Game Fleury played this Islanders game, New York would’ve probably been up 2-0 after the first period, but on justifiable goals, and we’d all be blaming the defense for their many glaring lapses and far too-frequent allowance of quality shots. Instead, with a little help from a Kris Letang diving stop, Fleury stuck through a surprisingly open first period and kept it 0-0, then survived a 5-on-3 in the second, keeping the Pens in a perfect position to win what amounted to a pretty solid victory on the strength of a handful of just a couple random goals.
The only event keeping Fleury from his first shutout was a total defensive breakdown that allowed Franz Nielsen to earn tenure in front of the Penguins’ net before popping in an easy backhander. Bob Errey blamed Tyler Kennedy for blowing his assignment and not following his opposing centerman to the net, but upon watching the replays, Orpik and Letang seemed to be unaware that Nielsen was ever born, and Letang looked like he was covering a possible pass between two invisible men. (Sidenote: it’s mind-boggling that Fleury doesn’t even have one shutout…46 goalies in the NHL have recorded a shutout this season, including Josh Harding, Steve Valiquette, and the immortal Jeff Deslauriers.)
It was nice to see Chris Kunitz back on the scoresheet too; the fact that people almost never mentioned that the Pens were missing a “top line winger” over the past couple months really underscored just how inessential Kunitz’s pre-injury contributions had been. I barely noticed him against Washington (other than his dumbass goalie interference penalty), but last night kept saying “Oh yeah, forgot we have this dude!”, which is about the highest compliment I’ve paid to him since the second week after the Ryan Whitney trade.
Sidney Crosby commented on the victory with this unintentionally-damning quote that more or less sums up the Penguins’ malaise over the last two months:
“That’s the type of game we have to play, that kind of style, where we’re playing hard.”
How bout that? Turns out, this avant garde “Playing Hard” style actually results in victories! Hopefully they’ll keep trying it.