The New Jersey Devils visited Pittsburgh on Friday night to take on the Penguins, but they should have saved everyone's precious time and just forfeited the game. It was March 25 and Marc-Andre Fleury was in goal for the home team -- their shutout loss was predestined.
Sure enough, Fleury backstopped the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 1-0 win in the shootout to continue one of the NHL's quirkiest and impressive streaks: He's never lost a game or given up a goal on March 25 during his pro career.
Four games, four different years, 112 shots faced and not a single goal allowed on March 25.
Did he know about this nearly annual success going into last night's game?
"No, no clue. It just happened I guess," said Fleury in the dressing room. "It's a good sign, I guess. Playoffs coming up, we're still battling for a spot to get on top of the standings. Definitely a good two points."
After being drafted first overall in 2003, Fleury didn't play on March 25 in his first two seasons. In 2010, he didn't play on the 25th, but faced the Washington Capitals on March 24 -- a 4-3 shootout loss. Otherwise, he's ruled the day:
March 25, 2007: Pittsburgh 5, Boston Bruins 0. Fleury made 29 saves as Sidney Crosby had 2 goals and an assist. Prior to that date, Fleury had give up three or more goals in eight of his last nine games.
March 25, 2008: Pittsburgh 2, New Jersey Devils 0. Fleury made 31 saves, including 16 in the third period to protect a one-goal lead. He nearly lost the shutout on a Sheldon Brookbank shot in the second period, but the refs waived it off on account of goalie interference by then-Devil and current Penguin Arron Asham.
March 25, 2009: Pittsburgh 2, Calgary Flames 0. Fleury outdueled Miikka Kiprusoff with a 31-save performance for his only shutout of March 2009.
March 25, 2011: Pittsburgh 1, New Jersey Devils 0 (SO). An odd one, as the Devils managed just one shot on goal in the first period. But Fleury outdid his childhood idol, goalie Marty Brodeur, for the 19th shutout of his career.
Why so dominant on this particular date? Well, Fleury's traditionally owned the month, as he and the Penguins prep for the postseason. He's a stellar 38-9-8 since 2006 in March. Other than that … who knows? Maybe it's his own special way of celebrating Danica Patrick's birthday? Or, perhaps, International Waffle Day?
Now that he's 4-for-4 in wins and shutouts on March 25, will this odd streak be on Fleury's mind if the Penguins play on 3/25/12?
The Penguins goalie knocked on the wooden bench he was sitting on, before saying, "I hope I forget. Because I never thought about it [before] and it went well."
Stick-tap to the Penguins for postgame video and to Pensburgh for bringing the streak to our attention.