Tue May 19 02:15am EDT
The score sheet reads 23 saves, but that doesn't begin to explain what a difference-maker "Flower" was in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. Fleury was dynamic, thwarting the Canes in a 12-shot first period; robbing players like Jussi Jokinen(notes), Tuomo Ruutu(notes) and Chad LaRose(notes) on golden opportunities; and, in the end, holding off a furious Carolina push to preserve the 3-2 win. It wasn't a perfect night for Fleury, but it was a very strong performance on a night when his teammates weren't the sharpest in front of him.
The veteran defenseman was the only Penguins to play less than 10 minutes (8:28), as he was the "seventh D-man" to help shoulder the load with a less-than-healthy Sergei Gonchar(notes) in the lineup. But did he ever make his minutes count: Boucher set up Evgeni Malkin's(notes) goal that made it 2-0 for Pittsburgh, and later scored what would be the game-winner on the power play against what was the second-best kill in the postseason heading into the night. Along with Miro Satan's breakaway goal to open the scoring, it was a strong night for two of the Pens' "spare parts."
No. 3 Star: Chad LaRose, Carolina Hurricanes
The energetic winger was all over the ice, scoring a critical goal in the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1 and nearly getting another before Erik Cole's(notes) interference penalty kept it off the board. If all the Hurricanes played like LaRose, it may have been a different result. Unfortunately, they waited until the third period to do so.
Major Penalty: The aforementioned interference call on Cole -- in which he made contact with defenseman Hal Gill(notes), who went flying into Fleury as LaRose shot the puck -- was an ugly play all around and an unfortunate bit of controversy in a well-played game. As Michael Farber of SI wrote: "Either Cole clearly doesn't know his own strength or Gill is a remarkably delicate flower for a man who stands 6'7" and weighs almost as much as the legal briefs in the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy case."
Minor Penalty: Not the best start for Eric Staal(notes), who battled against his brother Jordan Staal(notes) for most of the night. The siblings were even in the faceoff circle against each other (50 percent each), but Eric was a minus-1 and didn't tally a point. Not to mention the fact that he had the game on his stick at the end but couldn't convert (video).
Conn Smythe Watch: (The Top 10) 1. Johan Franzen(notes), Detroit Red Wings; 2. Sidney Crosby(notes), Penguins; 3. Henrik Zetterberg(notes), Detroit Red Wings; 4. Cam Ward(notes), Hurricanes; 5. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins; 6. Eric Staal, Hurricanes; 7. Chris Osgood(notes), Red Wings; 8. Patrick Kane(notes), Chicago Blackhawks; 9. Dave Bolland(notes), Blackhawks; 10. Evgeni Malkin, Penguins