They won’t think twice about letting Fleury face the New York Rangers.
Fleury is 13-0-2 in his last 15 starts against the Rangers at Mellon Arena, where he’ll look to help the Penguins bounce back Saturday night in the opener of a home-and-home set.
Fleury began to emerge as one of hockey’s most reliable goaltenders during Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup run last spring, and he’s tied with New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur(notes) for the Eastern Conference lead with 14 wins.
Backup Brent Johnson(notes) had started the front end of the Penguins’ last three back-to-back situations, though, and that trend continued Friday afternoon on Long Island. Johnson stopped 18 of the New York Islanders’ 19 shots in the first two periods, but gave up two goals on 18 shots in the third as the Penguins (17-9-0) lost 3-2.
“We pride ourselves on being a strong third-period team and raising our level when it’s time and we didn’t do a good job of it tonight,” said captain Sidney Crosby(notes), held without a point for the second time in eight games.
The Rangers (13-11-1) haven’t kept Crosby off the scoresheet often at Mellon Arena. The former Hart Trophy winner has six goals and 20 assists since April 13, 2006, in home games versus New York - including the playoffs - and has goals in the last three.
Pittsburgh is 14-0-2 in that stretch when the Rangers visit, and Fleury has been in goal for all but one of those games while posting a 1.78 goals-against average with three shutouts. He impressed center Chris Drury(notes) when he made 25 saves as the Penguins won 3-2 on Oct. 2, the night they raised their championship banner.
The Rangers can’t play anything like they did Friday in Tampa if they’re going to snap their six-game slide in Pittsburgh. Only Ryan Callahan’s(notes) goal with 2:07 to play kept New York from being shut out in its 5-1 loss to the Lightning.
“We were simply outplayed tonight, from the top line to the goaltender,” coach John Tortorella said. “I’m not going to dissect the game tonight because we were outplayed and the best thing about tonight is we play tomorrow and we can push this one right out (of our minds). We stunk tonight! It was an embarrassing loss! Let’s leave it at that.”
Gaborik’s eight-game point streak, during which he amassed eight goals and six assists, was snapped, and it was just the third game all season the Rangers’ star free agent acquisition failed to record a point.
New York could use some secondary scoring, however. No other Ranger has more than six goals, and Drury has scored once since his opening-night goal.
Since Dec. 1, 2005, the home team is 24-2-3 in this series. The Rangers and Penguins meet again Monday night at Madison Square Garden.