Marc-Andre Fleury Makes It Clear His Pittsburgh Penguins MVP Award Was Deserved

J FCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 27: Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save against the Florida Panthers at Consol Energy Center on March 27, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Marc-Andre Fleury stepped onto the ice to receive the first team MVP award ever given at the Penguins' new home, the CONSOL Energy Center, prior to the team's Sunday afternoon matchup with the Florida Panthers.

Since Sidney Crosby—the face of the franchise, who was last year's most valuable player—hadn't played in two months, it left the honor wide open for the taking.

This year's winner was highly anticipated by 18,087 fans who filled the dark arena as the announcer described the final annual award.

Those who had already checked their programs already knew who would be called out onto the ice to be recognized and began chanting the Canadian's last name.

Fleury's name was eventually announced amid the cheers of all the attending fans as the spotlight followed him across the ice to where his picture was taken with the award.

Cameras flashed, lighting up the arena. The Flower finally returned to the bench and fans took to their seats for the faceoff.

Marc-Andre Fleury must have felt the need to live up to the award he had just received because in the contest that followed, his valuable play was crucial for a Pens victory.

The Penguins MVP award is given based on the overall contribution the player makes to the team. It's safe to say Fleury contributed greatly against the Panthers in his 34th win. He made 37 saves, his third most of the season, and became the first star of the game with a save percentage of .974.

Fleury set a franchise record by shutting out opponent for a total of 150.14 minutes before allowing a lone goal to the Panthers in the second period.

He bailed out his team with several impressive saves on breakaways and the only shot that beat him was on an unfortunate redirected puck.

It was fitting that the game concluded in a shootout.

Whether or not the Penguins would receive two points and stick with the Flyers in the Eastern Conference depended on if Fleury could remain a brick wall in the net for just one more Panther barrage.

Nothing got past the Flower as he corralled both of the shots he faced, knocking one away with a diving poke check. This time his offense helped him out as both Alexei Kovalev and James Neal scored goals in the shootout.

Marc-Andre Fleury may have started the season slow, but he's led the Pens to four consecutive shootout victories and has truly become the team's MVP over an injury-riddled season.

The Penguins are on their way to the playoffs with their young goaltender playing like the valuable asset he is between the pipes.