For 59:40, Marc-Andre Fleury was just about perfect. Sure, he gave up two goals, but the first one was on a horrendous bounce and the second was a backdoor pass while the Pittsburgh Penguins were attempting to kill off a 5-on-3 situation.
The Penguins were barely clinging on to a 3-2 lead as the clock wound down in third period. Then, every Penguins fan got nightmarish flashbacks of the past two postseasons and every other viewer was introduced to the Fleury that has continuously let down Pittsburgh when it mattered most.
Jack Johnson dumped the puck in and around the Penguins’ net and, for some reason, Fleury decided to leave his cage and attempt to settle the puck down behind the net. Now, let me clarify, this is something that you never do as a goaltender in the last minute of a game unless you are absolutely sure you can corral the puck and either make a direct pass to your defenseman or clear the puck yourself.
The risk/reward of simply stopping the puck behind the net is not there when you’re holding on to a one-goal lead and there’s less than 30 seconds left to play. The puck hopped over Fleury’s stick, Ryan Johansen centered it to Ryan Dubinsky and he buried it in the uncontested net. The game was tied; the game clock read 0:24.
As overtime began, you just felt like it was going to be over early. The Penguins hadn’t had a legitimate scoring chance in two periods, but Sergei Bobrovsky had been fighting the puck all night and it felt like one good shot on goal would do it. Then for the second time of the night, the Fleury of old showed up again.
Nick Foligno came in on a 1-on-3 and took a shot from above the top of the circle that went through Matt Niskanen. The shot didn’t change direction and when it was released it didn’t appear to be an immediate threat to end the game. Then Fleury just missed it. Game over. Series tied.
It’s incredible the way hockey works. As the game went into the final minute of regulation, Fleury was going to be the main reason why the Penguins took a 3-1 series lead back to Pittsburgh. Now, he’s the main reason why it’s tied.