The hockey gods have smiled on us. Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury came off injuries just in time to face each other which is almost certainly the work of the hockey gods. In his first 14 NHL seasons, Fleury did just about everything a goaltender could do. Except, of course, score a goal and face the highly-skilled Pittsburgh Penguins.
Tonight in Las Vegas, Fleury checks that Penguins box. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang will also get to face the friend who matured with them and carried three Stanley Cups with them.The first meeting between the Penguins and Golden Knights is highly anticipated not only because it’s Fleury’s first time facing the team he helped to resurrect, but also because of the guy at the other end of the ice. Murray’s play made Fleury expendable and available in the expansion draft which stocked Vegas, last summer.
Fleury, who missed two months with a concussion, returned to the Vegas lineup for their 3-2 home shootout loss to Carolina Tuesday night. Murray, who’s missed the last six games with a lower-body injury suffered Nov. 27, will return tonight for his first start.
Tonight’s game has plenty of other intrigues. The Golden Knights status are the biggest overachievers in the league with the presence of three other former Penguins: James Neal, David Perron, and Deryk Engelland. They will face the Penguins which are arguably the league’s most high-profile underachievers.
You Can Go Home Again: Former Pens vs. Their Old Club
While Pittsburgh fans will find it downright weird to watch Fleury face the Penguins, that feeling has also been present when other long-time Penguins first crossed paths with their former team (although never to this extent). Some of those encounters included:
- Chris Kunitz (569 GP with Pens) picked up an assist in Tampa Bay’s 5-4 home win over Pittsburgh this past Oct. 12.
- Jaromir Jagr (806 GP) picked up an assist in Washington’s 2-2 home tie with the Penguins on Dec. 11, 2001.
- Jean Pronovost (753 GP) and the Atlanta Flames came to Pittsburgh for a 4-2 win on Oct. 28, 1978.
- Tom Barrasso (460 GP) stopped 11 shots (yes, 11) in Carolina’s 7-0 win in Pittsburgh on Dec. 16, 2001.
- Brooks Orpik (703 GP) picked up an assist in the Capitals’ 3-0 win in Pittsburgh on Dec. 27, 2014.
- Ron Francis (533 GP) recorded an assist in Carolina’s 3-3 home tie against Pittsburgh on Dec. 4, 1998.
- Pierre Larouche (240 GP) had three assists in Montreal’s 9-1 home win over the Penguins on Nov. 29, 1977.
- Kevin Stevens (522 GP) came up empty with the Bruins in Boston as the Pens earned a 9-6 victory on Nov. 30, 1995.
- Bob Errey (572 GP) earned two assists in San Jose’s 3-3 home tie with Pittsburgh on Nov. 2, 1993.
- Dave Burrows (573 GP) earned an assist to help the visiting Maple Leafs take a 3-2 victory in Pittsburgh on Oct. 11, 1978.
- Phil Bourque (344 GP) and the Rangers fell at home to Pittsburgh, 5-2, on Nov. 23, 1992.
- Syl Apps (495 GP) and the Kings beat the visiting Penguins, 5-3, on Nov. 24, 1977.
- Max Talbot (388 GP) and the Flyers (?!) earned a 3-2 win over the visiting Pens on Dec. 8, 2011.
- Troy Loney (532 GP) and the Ducks fell to visiting Pittsburgh, 5-4, on Nov. 7, 1993.
- Jordan Staal (431 GP) and Carolina picked up a 4-1 home win over the Penguins on Feb. 28, 2013.
- Ron Schock (619 GP) and the Sabres earned a 3-3 tie with visiting Pittsburgh on Jan. 28, 1978.
Pens vs. Expansion Teams
The Penguins have had plenty of success facing expansion teams for the first time, although they’ve never met an expansion team with the Golden Knights resume.
Pittsburgh is 12-2-1 all-time when meeting an expansion team for the first time. The last time the Penguins met an expansion team was Feb. 11, 2001. They lost on the road to the Minnesota Wild, 4-2.
The Penguins’ only other regulation loss in the first game against an expansion team was Oct. 10, 1970, at home versus Gil Perreault and the Sabres, 2-1.
Today’s Grover Deep Pull
Excluding preseason games, T-Mobile Arena will be the 69th different arena in which the Penguins have played outside of Pittsburgh.