After struggling on Sunday, Marc-Andre Fleury rebounded with a sensational performance on Tuesday night, stopping 44-of-45 shots in Pittsburgh's 3-1 against Philadelphia in game 4 of its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
No question about it, the Penguins' 24-year-old netminder was their best player, standing on his head much of the game, giving them an opportunity to win. The Flyers were consistently swarming the front of the net -- and firing shots from every possible angle on each of their eight power plays -- as Fleury was there every single time to make the stops.
Quite honestly, when you look back at his performance in game 2, Fleury might be the biggest -- if not only -- reason this series is 3-1 in favor of Pittsburgh and not Philadelphia, as he's probably been the best player on the ice for either team.
The Penguins opened the scoring midway through the second period when Sidney Crosby scored his second goal of the playoffs.
The play had to be reviewed, but was ultimately confirmed as the replay clearly showed the puck hit his stick and then bounce off his midsection as he slid across the ice. Here's what the situation room had to say about the call, from NHL.com:
Play was reviewed to determine if the puck was batted in by the glove of Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby... the review determined that the puck went off of Crosby's stick, then his body, there was no batting motion - call on the ice for good goal stands.Four minutes later, Tyler Kennedy picked up his second goal of the playoffs on a play that was nearly identical to the goal Jeff Carter scored early in game 3.
Daniel Carcillo ended Fleury's shutout bid late in the third period, banging home a rebound for his first career playoff goal. At that point, you could feel momentum starting to swing as the fans became a factor -- Dan Bylsma said it felt like the building was "shaking" in his post-game press conference -- and the Flyers continued to swarm around the net.
As the Penguins head to game 5, they have two questions that need answered:
1) What are they going to do with Petr Sykora? As we mentioned on Monday, Sykora has been virtually non-existent since the beginning of March, and after missing an open net from about six inches away on Tuesday -- and having a pass bounce off his stick, negating what could have been a clear breakaway in the second period -- he rarely saw the ice, logging just 8:19 of playing time over the course of the game. Whether it's injury -- there's speculation around Pittsburgh he might playing through pain -- or if he's just "gripping the stick a little tight," he's struggling to make a positive impact.
2) How can they fix the power play? After their 0-for-5 performance on Tuesday, the Penguins are just 4-for-26 with the man advantage during this series. That 15 percent success rate is actually lower than their 17 percent mark from the regular season, which ranked 20th in the NHL. Of course, it would be unfair to the Flyers to not point out how well they've played shorthanded, so, that's obviously at play here as well.
Game 5 is on Thursday night with a 7:00 PM ET faceoff in Pittsburgh.