Marc-Andre Fleury starts strong, finishes stronger as Wild beat Penguins, 3-2

On the night the Wild officially celebrated Marc-Andre Fleury’s 1,000 NHL games and 552 career victories, second-most all-time, the veteran goaltender showed a sellout crowd at Xcel Energy Center the moves that got him there in a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kirill Kaprizov scored his 20th goal of the season, and Matt Boldy added a goal and assist, but as he did on the night he passed Patrick Roy for second on the career wins list — a shutout against the New York Islanders — Fleury was spectacular.

The 20-year veteran stopped 33 of 35 shots against the team that picked him first overall in the 2003 entry draft and won three Stanley Cups with him in net. He started the game by making three saves on a 4-minute minor and ended it with several athletic saves in the final 1:50 of play, when the Penguins were skating 6-on-4 after a high-sticking penalty on Jonas Brodin.

Former teammate Sidney Crosby got him for the tying goal early in the third period — the 578th of his illustrious career — but Fleury got the win.

“Yeah,” Fleury said, “that’s what always matters — the win.”

His 553rd NHL victory is second only to Martin Brodeur’s 691. Fleury, 39, played his 1,000th game in a 3-2 loss to Winnipeg on Dec. 31 and passed Roy with a 5-0 shutout victory over the Islanders on Jan. 15.

Brodin also scored for Minnesota, and Brock Faber had an assist on Boldy’s first-period goal to set a new record for assists by a rookie defenseman with 27. The Wild have won two straight since returning from their bye week/all-star break.

The night started with a 15-minute ceremony celebrating Fleury’s achievements and career, which could end — if he chooses — after this season when his contract expires. A long video tribute ended with messages from his young daughters and son, finally pushing Fleury to tears.

“I’m glad it’s over; I was pretty nervous for it,” Fleury said. “I feel like I’ve gotten softer with the years.”

Then 25 seconds into the game, Jake Middleton was called for a 4-minute high-sticking minor when he got Crosby in the neutral zone. The Wild’s penalty kill was up to the challenge, and Fleury made three quick saves.

“I think with time I think I’ve learned to push stuff aside and just play. I guess that helps,” he said. “It definitely gave me some emotions, some goosebumps. That PK was good — move around a bit, make a couple saves, and get into the game.”

The game finished in a flurry, nearly 2 minutes of a two-man disadvantage against some of the most skilled forwards in hockey.

“The guys did an awesome job, especially blocking shots there in the third period,” said veteran defenseman Zach Bogosian, whose slap shot — which ripped through an opponent’s stick — was deflected by Kaprizov for the winning goal.

Fleury made big saves late, but his teammates chipped in with big blocked shots, including a pair of conspicuous ones by Faber and Brandon Duhaime.

“That’s what it takes to win games,” Fleury added. “It takes heart, a lot of courage. It’s not an easy thing to do. They hurt, but the wins feel way better when you win them that way. You’re playing the right way, you’re committing to the team. It was great to see the guys do that.”

After going into their eight-day break with consecutive losses, the Wild have won their first two since returning, pulling within three points of idle St. Louis and Nashville for the eighth and ninth spots in the West. Pittsburgh, trying to get into a playoff spot in the East, tied the game 1-1 in the second period, and 2-2 in the third.

“There were ups and downs to the game, obviously, but I thought we played well and scored some big goals, didn’t get too flustered when they tied it,” Boldy said.

Boldy started the scoring with a strong power-play goal in the first period. He took a pass from Kaprizov above the circles and skated straight through the slot, shooting around defenseman Marcus Pettersson to beat Alex Nedeljkovic for a 1-0 lead at 12:57.

The Penguins tied the score early in the second period on a rush, Reilly Smith burying a pass from Evgeni Malkin to end a quick rush, but Brodin tied it less than 3 minutes later with a goal from the slot.

It stayed that way until Crosby skated from behind the net into a soft spot in the corner of the crease and deflected a perfect pass from the point by Erik Karlsson just 1:01 into the third period.

Kaprizov appeared to put the Wild back on top at 9:34 when he swiped a pass from Zach Bogosian into the near corner, but Penguins coach Mike Sullivan challenged the goal, saying a Penguins player had deflected the puck over the glass and into the netting before the play.

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