PITTSBURGH — The fans chanted Marc-Andre Fleury's name several times throughout his spectacular shutout performance in Wednesday's Game 1.
But the goaltender's astounding — and often acrobatic — display in a 3-0 win over the Lightning came as little surprise to Penguins fans at the Consol Energy Center, who afterward serenaded him with "M-V-P!"
Fleury, 26, is a Hart Trophy candidate for league MVP for how he helped carry Pittsburgh during the regular season's final 29 games, when it was without star forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin yet tied Philadelphia for first in the Atlantic.
Fleury, who led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup in 2009, showed what kind of daunting task the Lightning has in front of it with his fifth career postseason shutout.
"I thought he was outstanding. There's no question about it," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "I just saw some of the replays, and I can't believe he made some of those saves. He is going to be tough to beat.
"We have to beat an incredible goalie who has won this before and stood on his head in the playoffs."
Fleury made 14 of his 32 saves in a first-period flurry. Had he not, the Lightning could have been up by a few goals. Tampa Bay center Dominic Moore thought he had scored with about nine minutes left after deflecting a Brett Clark shot.
Fleury, appearing not to know where the puck was, dived backward toward the goal line, and Moore raised his hands in celebration. But the puck was still in the crease and bounced to ex-Penguin Ryan Malone. With his back to the play, Fleury flung up his left pad to rob Malone.
"I was looking for the puck for a little while and scrambling around," said Fleury, the top overall pick in 2003 who is in his seventh season.
"At the last second, I thought it was behind me. So I tried to do something I do in practice, and it worked out all right."
The improvisation wowed Malone.
"A reverse double leg stack pad save," Malone said. "It was pretty nice."
"What can you say? It's unbelievable," Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. "He's so acrobatic, so he can make those saves."
Fleury made another highlight-reel save early in the second period. This time, Vinny Lecavalier, positioned by the post, took a rebound, put it between his skates to his forehand and tried to push it past a sprawling Fleury. But Fleury got his stick down in time.
"I was in hot water once again," Fleury said, smiling. "He made it pretty quick, went around my leg. And that's all I had was my arm, and I just got a piece of it."
Said Penguins wing Alex Kovalev: "He just repeats over and over again how good he is and how well he can play under pressure. He can save this team many times."
Just like Fleury did Wednesday.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]