By Larry Snyder
The Pittsburgh Penguins took the 31 saves from last-minute starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and claimed a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first meeting of their best-of-seven playoff series. The Metropolitan Division combatants meet at center ice Friday, April 14 for Game 2 at PPG Paints Arena at 7:00 p.m.
Matt Murray was slated to be between the pipes but suffered a lower body injury during pre-game warm-ups. Tristan Jarry, who went 28-15-1 with a 2.15 goals-against-average at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the American Hockey League, was Fleury’s backup. Let’s take a quick look at the score sheet and gather up some of the notable highlights.
It was Fleury’s 101st playoff game which ties him with Tom Barrasso for the team record for most playoff appearances by a Pens goaltender. The Sorel, Quebec native recorded his 54th playoff victory, just two short of Barrasso’s team record. Defenseman Trevor Daley commented about Fleury to Josh Yohe at dkpittsburghsports.com (subscription service), “Well, he’s a world class goalie. That’s what world class goalies do.”
Fleury told Wes Crosby of NHL.com about getting the start, “I just tried to approach it as a regular game. It was fun. It’s been a while. I was a little nervous in the beginning, maybe from not expecting it. The guys did a great job in front of me too, all game long, blocking shots and taking rebounds away. At the end, it was a great feeling.”
Evgeni Malkin looked good on the ice considering his last contest was Wednesday, March 15 against the Flyers in Philadelphia. His two assists permitted the 30-year-old center to move past Jaromir Jagr into third place on the Black and Gold’s all-time postseason assist list. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound forward owns 48 goals and 83 assists for 131 points in 125 playoff games. Not bad for the 101st best player in the NHL.
Phil Kessel hit his playoff switch and earned his way back onto the score sheet with a goal and an assist in the second period against Columbus. The 6-foot, 202-pound right-wing led Pittsburgh with seven shots on goal.
The Black and Gold began the meeting playing flat and surrendering too many shots. It does not matter if it is Murray, Fleury, or Jarry between the pipes, you have to get the puck out of your end of the ice. The Pens can not give up another 16-3 difference in shots and expect the score at the first intermission to be 0-0.
Matt Calvert’s goal at 12:41 in the third frame for Columbus came off a Conor Sheary giveaway to Jacks’ right-wing Josh Anderson. Sheary got some extra bench time as Matt Cullen was given a shift on the Crosby line from head coach Mike Sullivan. Pittsburgh owned a total of seven giveaways to just two for Columbus.
Columbus collected more hits by a 49 to 35 margin over Sullivan’s squad. Scott Hartnell, always a favorite with Pens fans, led the Blue Jackets with six hits.
Box Score Bits: Right-wing Carter Rowney put up six hits for the Pens while defenseman Olli Maatta recorded the most blocks with four. Cullen won 63% of his faceoffs by going 10 of 16. Sidney Crosby was second at 58% by winning 14 of 24.
Game Highlights From YouTube.com – Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins – April 12, 2017…