The National Weather Center has issued a Fleury advisory for the Western Pennsylvania region. Reports indicate that the storm is currently heading west from Philadelphia, and is leaving a path of orange-clad destruction in its wake.
The Fleury hit the city of Philadelphia head-on, and the brunt of the damage was dealt to the Wachovia Center.
The National Guard has been dispatched to Philadelphia in hopes of providing answers to the 19,883 confused and angered patrons who were affected by Tuesday night’s storm.
The stifling enigma known as the “Flower” was in full bloom in Pittsburgh’s 3-1 win over Philadelphia in Game Four of the first-round Eastern Conference matchup.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh’s acrobatic young goaltender, stopped 45 of 46 shots to help the Penguins head home for Game Five with a 3-1 series lead.
"It didn't matter how many shots they had, I just tried to make the saves and I knew we would be in good shape to win the game," Fleury said.
Fleury was bombarded with shots all night long as Philadelphia peppered Pittsburgh’s goaltender with a barrage of scoring chances from every angle.
Fleury, however, was absolutely sensational in net. Had it not been for teammate Brooks Orpik knocking a Flyer into Fleury, the “Flower” would have most likely posted a shutout as opposed to surrendering a goal to former Penguin draft pick Dan Carcillo at 11:44 of the third period.
Carcillo’s goal cut the Penguins' lead in half, at 2-1, and sent the raucous sellout crowd into a frenzy.
This would be the only glimmer of hope for a Flyers squad that could, and should, have been up by four or five goals on the evening. Instead, the power outage continued for the remainder of regulation as this storm helped surge the Penguins to a decisive and insurmountable lead in this series.
“Incredible” is the most overused term in sports, but that’s just what Fleury was last night...incredible.
He has been the one player who has altered the course of this series with his play. His toe save in Game Two prevented the Flyers from taking a 3-1 lead in the game and gave the Penguins a new lease on life.
Last night it was glove save, after sprawled-out glove save, after glove save, after pad save...well, you get the point, that kept Pittsburgh in control of the game and completely nullified the reenergized Flyers faithful.
You would think that a town that booed Santa would cheer the Grinch.
The constantly grinning Fleury, whose ear-to-ear smile is reminiscent of the holiday hoodlum, managed to prevent the Flyers from getting the all-important first goal of Game Four and was the best penalty killer on a team that surrendered eight power play opportunities on the night.
It was the nature and timing of Fleury’s big saves that took the emotional boost that the Flyers received after winning Game Four completely out of the equation.
Big saves on the penalty kill in the first period allowed Pittsburgh to survive the Philadelphia onslaught, and it was a key save in the second that sprung the Penguins' rush, leading to Sidney Crosby’s goal to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.
Later in the period, Fleury denied Simon Gagne at the end of a Pittsburgh power play, which shortly thereafter led to Tyler Kennedy’s backhander past Martin Biron, putting the Penguins ahead 2-0.
Philadelphia kept Pittsburgh on the defensive all night.
The Penguins had 13 shots in the first period, and then another 13 combined in the second (six) and third (seven). To put that in perspective, the Flyers had more shots in the second (15) or third (19) periods than Pittsburgh had in those two periods combined.
It was feast or famine for the Flyers, who appeared to be on a permanent power play for the entire game, and every time they looked to turn a chance into something tangible, Fleury was there to turn them away.
The first overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft has blossomed into one of the league’s best young goaltenders, and the man known as “Flower” is doing it out of the spotlight.
"Because of the great level of talent we have on this team, he's not going to get the credit he deserves," Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "Every single year I've played with Flower, he's gotten better, and that's scary."
Fleury started as a mere snowflake in the NHL, and as scary as it is to think that the man in between the pipes for the Penguins on Tuesday night could be better, no truer words have been uttered this postseason.
Granted, Alexander Ovechkin came close when he explained to reporters, after being kicked off the bench during the New York Rangers' practice, as to why he was asked to leave, “They are just scared of me.”
Fleury went from that snowflake to a veritable city-crushing, super-cell of a storm the likes of which were seen in the recent movie The Day After Tomorrow.
"Maybe a little more mature, a little older, you know, got some experience," Fleury said of his improved play over the past two seasons. "Once you play in the Final, you see the pressure, the stress, and it helped me I think."
While he has had lapses like any goaltender—one only need look as far back as Sunday—Fleury has been the catalyst for the Penguins’ success over the past two seasons.
To put it simply, when Fleury is on, the Penguins are near unbeatable. When the “Flower” is off, as he was earlier this season, the Penguins struggle to stay in games.
The Flyers played the best game either team has played thus far in the series in Game Four, and they deserved to win.
"I thought we did everything well except put the puck in the net," Flyers Captain Mike Richards said.
“Well” is an understatement.
Philadelphia outhit, outplayed, and outworked the Penguins, but on this night not even an unrelenting orange attack was able to navigate through the Fleury that plagued Eastern Pennsylvania in this series-changing game.
"In practice, I hate when the guy scores," Fleury said after the game. "My dad always told me to work hard. That's all you control, it's all you can do, and if I give my best, good things will happen."
Good things are happening in Pittsburgh, and the rest of the NHL can expect plenty more winter advisory warnings as the Fleury in the steel city only looks to gain strength for the foreseeable future.
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