PITTSBURGH — "Marc-Andre Fleury was really good tonight except for that one bad goal he allowed" should be a trademarked statement by reporters covering the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The maddeningly inconsistent goaltender hasn't been anywhere near the train wreck he was during the 2012 and 2013 playoffs, but he has had a few relapses in 2014.
The most infamous mistakes by Fleury came in Game 4 of the Penguins' first-round series with the Columbus Blue Jackets, when he stumbled his way toward allowing a game-tying goal late and then whiffed on a long wrist shot that cost the Penguins the game.
In Game 1 of the conference semifinals against the New York Rangers on Friday night, Fleury allowed a questionable goal to Benoit Pouliot in a game the Penguins would lose 3-2 in overtime.
In Sunday night's crucial Game 2 at Consol Energy Center, Fleury had almost no margin for error with Henrik Lundqvist standing on his head at the other end of the ice. Fleury responded with his first flawless performance of the postseason.
Fleury made 22 saves as the Penguins evened their best-of-seven series with a 3-0 victory against the Rangers—a win that showed the shaky, inconsistent Fleury of years past could be gone for good.
"I just tried to stop the next one, keep us in the game," Fleury said. "It wasn't the busiest game."
Fleury had no choice but to be perfect if the Penguins wanted to knot this series. Lundqvist was perfect through 30 minutes before Kris Letang gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead midway through the second period.
The score remained that way until Jussi Jokinen put the game away by scoring a power-play goal with 3:30 remaining in the third period. Evgeni Malkin added an empty-netter in the last minute for the final margin, making the game appear more lopsided than it was.
Well, the Penguins did thoroughly thrash the Rangers after a penalty-filled first period, but that didn't ease the burden for Fleury, who had to make a couple of difficult stops early in the third period with the game hanging in the balance.
"I think at the end of the game, maybe there's focus on other areas—Lundqvist's play," head coach Dan Bylsma said.
"But I thought you can't overlook his part in the penalty kill either. There were one or two flurries and I don't think he got credit for one of the saves he made, but he was very good. He had one really good saves there on a shot through a defenseman that was high.
"He deserved a shutout tonight."
If this is the Fleury who shows up for Game 3 on Monday and beyond, the Rangers will be hard-pressed to find a victory in their fifth game in seven days.