Fleury’s Follies: ‘Jackets Knot Series Up After 4-3 OT Win


Apr 23, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; The Columbus Bluejackets celebrate their first goal in the first period in game four of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

This is a game that Pittsburgh was worried about.

Leading the tilt 3-2 in the waning minutes of the third period, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ tied the game up after Marc-Andre Fleury left his net, and then sealed it in overtime, with a goal from just about the blue-line.

The loss spelled absolute shock for Pittsburgh, and despite performing solid all-game, it was Fleury who was made out to be the goat off an incredibly foolish play that ultimately cost his group the game.

As its been a problem all series for both teams, Pittsburgh potted the first goal of the game via a shorthanded opportunity. Carrying the puck down ice off a turnover, Brandon Sutter backhanded a feed over to Craig Adams on a two-on-one, and Adams’ buried a wrister top-shelf past ‘Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky to put Pittsburgh up 1-0.

Garnering a power-play of their own, the Pens would then see forward Chris Kunitz re-direct a wrist-shot from Matt Niskanen to put them up 2-0, and were able to capitalize on the man-advantage – something they’ve had issues with. Almost immediately following their second tally, James Neal would then score 33-seconds later on Bobrovsky’s glove side, to increase Pittsburgh’s lead to 3-0.

Towards the end of the first, the ‘Jackets – whom had seemingly fell asleep for the majority of the period – wouldn’t go quietly. Garnering another power-play opportunity, ex-Penguin Mark Letestu shot towards Marc-Andre Fleury, to which ‘Jackets forward Boone Jenner got his stick on the puck, and in turn popped up over Fleury and into the back of the cage.

After Pittsburgh failed to convert on a power-play roughly nine-minutes into the second period, Pittsburgh would run on a sin-bin binge.

Catching ‘Jackets defenseman Nick Schultz up high with his stick, Lee Stempniak went to the box for a double-minor, due to Schultz drawing blood. Killing off half the penalty, Sutter made a big mistake, and went to the box after sending the puck up into the mesh. And it would prove to be a crushing blow, as young gun Ryan Johansen tipped-in the ‘Jackets second goal, and pulling the game to within one goal.

Columbus’ earned yet another power-play, but to no avail, as the Pens’ went into the locker room with a 3-2 advantage.

The third period belonged to Fleury – until he made the worst mistake you could make.

With both teams’ exchanging barbs throughout, Fleury left his net to play a rolling puck behind his net, only to be pick-pocketed, and see ‘Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky score the game-tying goal with just 24-seconds left, on essentially an empty-net. And it clearly rattled Fleury.

It only took ‘Jackets forward Nick Foligno 2:49-minutes into overtime to complete what Pittsburgh had feared, as his wrist-shot got past Fleury from just about the blue-line, and tied the series up at two.

You could point to so many reasons as to why Pittsburgh failed to take a 3-1 series lead – penalties, turnovers, bad defense, etc. – but Fleury’s one little error may have been the main one.

It’s going to be difficult to carry on after this game, but somehow, someway, Pittsburgh’s going to have to dig deep.

Stats to pass along – Jussi Jokinen, Evgeni Malkin, Paul Martin, and Matt Niskanen each had one assist. Fleury saved 42-of-46 shots.

Saturday’s Game 5 can be seen on the NBC Sports Network, and is set to start at 7 p.m.