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An Emotional Return For Marc-André Fleury To “Steel Town” As Golden Knights Fall 5-4 To Pittsburgh
(Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
Las Vegas–Tonight finally came for the Vegas Golden Knights and Marc-André Fleury as they took on the Pittsburgh Penguins in “Steel Town” for the first time.
This marked the return of Fleury to Pittsburgh since being acquired by the Golden Knights during the Vegas Draft. Fleury spent 13 seasons in the National Hockey League with the Penguins and along the way became an instant fan favorite among the Pittsburgh community.
He also collected 3 Stanley Cups over the that time (2009, 2016, and 2017) during his tenure there.
For Penguins fans they waited a longtime to see Flower once again on “Steel Town” ice as thousands and thousands of them wore his old Pittsburgh sweater and both young and old came out with Fleury signs to pay their respects to the 3-time champion.
Golden Knights fans also joined in on the pregame honor’s with signs of their own of Fleury along with former Pens in James Neal, Deryk Engelland, and David Perron on one of them titled “Welcome Home”.
In the opening stages of the 1st period the Golden Knights were on the man advantage and over the past 6 games, Vegas had been very successful with converting 10 times on 17 attempts.
They would put it to good use and it was Jonathan Marchessault who set up William Karlsson for his 28th of the season.
Karlsson collected the pass from Marchessault and beat Matt Murray five hole for the 1 goal lead. This was the Golden Knights 11th goal on the man advantage in 7 games.
Later in the period, the Pittsburgh Penguins paid tribute to Fleury that featured some of his best moments in “Steel Town”. After the completion of the memorable video on the Jumbotron at PPG Paints Arena, fans chanted “Fleury, Fleury, Fleury” and Flower was very moved by it that he actually broke the emotional barrier with tears in his eyes.
The Golden Knights continued where they off at in the goal scoring department and the next man up for Vegas was the former Penguin in Neal. Neal connected off of a pass from defenseman Nate Schmidt and with a no look backhander beat Murray for a 2-0 Golden Knights lead at the 6:34 mark of the 2nd. This gave Neal his 23rd of the year.
For the back-2-back Stanley Cup Champs they were not going to let a 2 goal deficit phase them at all so they went to work on the Golden Knights.
Leading the comeback charge for the Penguins was the former St. Louis Blues Ryan Reaves getting it done. 11:08 into the middle frame Reaves ended Fleury’s shutout bid after he collected the puck from a Riley Sheehan and went five hole on Flower for a 2-1 game.
Pittsburgh continued their attack on the Golden Knights when Bryan Rust fed a wide open Ian Cole in the slot. Cole with plenty time and space took the puck and went top shelf on Fleury that knotted the game up at 2 goals apiece with less than 3 minutes left of the period.
Shortly after the Cole goal that tied the game up, the Penguins would get their first lead of game as it was Jake Guentzel who was the next man up for Pittsburgh. Guentzel was all alone near the left point, blasted the puck thru heavy traffic that beat Fleury for a 3-2 Penguins lead at 18:40 of the 2nd.
In the third period, the Penguins would add some insurance on the Golden Knights as Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin teamed up on a 2 on 1 against Deryk Engelland. Kessel dished the puck over to Geno as he would fire a laser beam shot past Fleury for a 4-2 Pittsburgh lead just over 3 minutes into the 3rd period.
Less than 3 minutes after Malkin gave the Penguins a 2 goal cushion on Vegas, it was Kessel’s turn to find the back of the net for Pittsburgh. The scoring was started by Carl Hagelin who played the puck behind the Golden Knights net and found Malkin making a cross in the slot, the Russian sniper sent a pass to a wide open Kessel and went backdoor on Fleury for a 5-2 lead.
18 seconds later, Ryan Carpenter would get a goal back for Vegas after he cashed in an Alex Tuch rebound to beat Murray and made it a 5-3 game. Carpenter would record his 2nd of the season with the Golden Knights.
After some great battle work along the boards by Reilly Smith, Marchessault grabbed the puck and from a tough angle shot went over the shoulder on Murray for a 1 goal game at 5-4 with less than 8 minutes to go in the contest. This gave Marchessault his 19th of the year.
This would be as far as Vegas would get on the back-2-back Stanley Cup Champions as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Vegas Golden Knights by a final score of 5-4.
The Golden Knights would not gain any ground in the standings on Tampa Bay Lightning as their record would be 35-14-4 and still maintained their 3 point lead over Nashville and Winnipeg in the Western Conference at 74 points.
For Fleury his return to “Steel Town” was a disappointing one for him as he finished off the night with a 33 save performance on 38 total shots and a save percentage of .838.
Vegas however did well on both sides of special teams as they would go 1/3 on the power play and a perfect 5 for 5 on the penalty kill.
For Vegas on this road trip after their 5-4 loss to the Penguins their record would be 3-2-0 with their final game on this swing in San Jose on Thursday against the Sharks.
3 Stars Of The Game
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin (1 goal and 1 assist)
Pittsburgh Penguins: Phil Kessel (1 goal and 1 assist)
Vegas Golden Knights: Marc-André Fleury (33 saves)