For one night Marc-Andre Fleury can forget about the past. Counted on heavily in the third period, Fleury stood tall in net as the Penguins were able to top the Devils 3-0 in the season opener at Consol Energy Center.
The 27 save shutout effort was Fleury’s 250th career win and is an encouraging sign that the talented goaltender has regained his confidence after tanking in the first round of the playoffs last season.
Pittsburgh was shorthanded for most of the night after James Neal aggravated his undisclosed injury early in the first period. Perhaps out of necessity, but more likely by design, the Penguins turned to a much more conservative approach after jumping ahead in the early going.
Coming off a strong preseason and a fresh new contract, Chuck Kobasew kept his luck rolling halfway through the first period when he drove home Brandon Sutter’s rebound through New Jersey netminder Corey Schneider’s five-hole to put the Pens up 1-0.
On the play Beau Bennett made a ridiculous one-touch pass to Kobasew in stride. Kobasew then dropped it off to Sutter who quickly turned it to the net. After weaving through the Devil defense on his way to the net, Kobasew found himself in the right place at the right time.
It didn’t take long for the Penguins to cash in once more – this time it was old #87 notching his 666th career point, fittingly against the Devils.
It took all five guys on the ice to get this one done. Rob Scuderi and Matt Niskanen started the play in the Pens own end. Niskanen fed it up past Chris Kunitz who leveled Anton Volchenkov to keep the puck moving north. Pascal Dupuis was able to beat his man and chip the puck over to Crosby, who sniped it past the glove Schneider, 2-0 Pens.
From here, the Penguins were more than content to sit back and let the Devils come to them. They played very conservatively, mixing in variations of a trap defense to keep the Devils from mounting any serious scoring chances. They also did a good job of clogging the shooting lanes on their way to blocking 23 shots.
Halfway through the second, however, momentum began swinging New Jersey’s way. After out-shooting the Pens 9-3 in the second, the Devils continued to control the play into the third. But Marc-Andre Fleury was a wall while making several acrobatic saves, including a tremendous behind-the-back snag.
Craig Adams added some icing on the cake with a goal of his own later in the third thanks to a nice feed from Evgeni Malkin to put the game away. It’s probably a safe bet that Adams and Tanner Glass won’t see ice time with Evgeni Malkin very often, that they were able to take advantage of the opportunity is another example of Malkin’s ability to make those around him that much better.
The story of the game though was Fleury and the defense. They were getting help from back-checking forwards, but the D played simple and solid to help Fleury earn the shutout.
Olli Maatta looked confident in his first game as a professional. He and Robert Bortuzzo were solid all night. Scuderi and Niskanen look to be fantastic compliments to each others game. Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik went basically unnoticed, and that’s how you want it for your shutdown D tandem.
Only one game in the books, but so far so good for the Pens.