Fleury mistakenly knocks game-winner into net
PITTSBURGH -- Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury arguably was the Pittsburgh Penguins' MVP during the Stanley Cup finals. One of his few misplays in the series brought back bad memories of perhaps the worst moment of his career.
The Detroit Red Wings' winning goal in their 3-2, Cup-clinching victory in Game 6 Wednesday night came when Henrik Zetterberg put a shot between Fleury's pads about 7 1/2 minutes into the third period. Fleury appeared to have the puck covered, and it seemed as if most of the players on the ice felt he did, too.
But the puck was behind Fleury and, when he leaned back, he accidentally pushed it across the goal line. Referee Marc Joannette immediately pointed to the net to signal a goal that put the Red Wings up 3-1 and proved to be the series-winner.
None of Fleury's defensemen rushed in to clear the puck until it had gone into the net.
Fleury's flub came a game after he kept the series going, making a remarkable 55 saves as the Penguins won 4-3 in triple overtime in Game 5 in Detroit. The performance was one of the best by a goaltender in recent Stanley Cup history and may have been the best by a Penguins goalie in a finals game.
As good as Fleury was for most of the series, his teammates didn't feel it was necessary to make any excuses for his misplay.
"I don't think really anything needs to be said about him," captain Sidney Crosby said. "We wouldn't be in this position without him."
Fleury had another crucial misplay with a championship on the line earlier in his career. At age 19, he attempted to make a clearing pass for Canada in the championship game of the world junior championships against the United States. But the puck struck teammate Braydon Coburn in the back and ricocheted into Canada's own net, the decisive goal of a 4-3 United States victory even though it wasn't shot by the winning team.
That gaffe appeared to affect Fleury's career for a while, mostly by making him hesitant to play the puck and less likely to venture out of the crease to attempt to make plays.
The Penguins don't expect anything like that to happen this time, not after he established himself as a premier goalie during the entire season.
Fleury took this loss hard, sitting with his head buried in his lap following the Penguins' season-ending loss.
"It's a team effort out there, and Marc-Andre got us to where we were," defenseman Darryl Sydor said. "Bounces just happen in a game. Everybody thought he had it. There's not much to be said, he's become an elite goalie in this league."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press