With time winding down to under a minute in the third period of Game 4, Pittsburgh held a 3-2 lead over Columbus.
Coming out of his cage and playing the puck behind his net, Pens’ goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury saw the biscuit bounce over his stick. As he was scrambling to get back to his net, ‘Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky potted the game-tying goal on an empty-netter, sending it to overtime.
That goal proved to be demoralizing, because it just took a little over two-minutes for Columbus to complete their enormous comeback. But to hold all accountability on Fleury is unjust.
Okay, did Fleury make a mistake? Yes. Did he make the biggest error of the game? Yes. But to say Pittsburgh lost the game because of him just isn’t fair.
It’s cliché, but when a team loses, it’s not because of one player.
Fleury was pelted with shots in Game 4 – 46 in fact. Bobrovsky didn’t have nearly as much heat as Fleury did, and because “Flower” battened down the hatches, he was the sole reason Pittsburgh was even afloat in this tilt.
Fleury’s team didn’t make it easy on him.
Penalty-after-penalty, Fleury was constantly having to kill off the ‘Jackets power-play – including a full two-minute 5-on-3, which he almost escaped. I don’t care what kind of goalie you are, anytime the opposition garners 14-minutes on the man-advantage, it’s going to wear you down.
One of Pittsburgh’s biggest issues is they seem to turn the intensity down when they build a comfortable lead. And it was evident in Game 4.
Despite the coincidence that whoever’s scored first has gone on to lose the game this series, Pittsburgh registered three first period goals, and were performing exactly how they’re capable of. And then, for some reasons or another, they just play protect-the-net hockey. Sitting back is not what the playoffs are about.
It must be something about the first-round. Ever since Pittsburgh blew an insurmountable lead against Philadelphia in Game 1 a few years’ back, and followed that up with an encore against the Islanders last postseason, instilling confidence in the nemesis. The only way to clog the bleeding, and allowing inferior teams from breathing new life, is to suffocate them.
From start to finish, Pittsburgh must play the full 60-minutes. It lowers the weight on Fleury’s shoulders, and it prevents onlooking Pens’ fans from ripping their hair out.
Now, of course, Fleury’s gaffe is a prime example of his recent playoff mishaps. And to be honest it’s a little upsetting, because Fleury’s manned the fort so well this series, to have him just make that type of blunder really supports everyone else’s doubts towards the scrutinized goaltender.
Fans just got to trust that the overtime goal – which was really, really bad – isn’t a sign of Fleury getting back into old habits. Addictions of self-apprehension, disbelief, and hesitation.
Point is – and I know this is obvious – but the entire Pens’ squad needs to execute way more efficient if they plan on surviving the first-round. And I also have faith that Fleury will bounce back in Game 5.
At least, I’m hoping that’s what happens.
Saturday’s Game 5 can be seen on the NBC Sports Network, and is set to start at 7 p.m.
Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins