In the never-ending war of pranks between the immensely affable Minnesota Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and his long-time Pittsburgh Penguins teammates, Fleury scored a hat trick Monday night.
Fleury got Evgeni Malkin with a taped visor, which left residue. He put the wrong colored helmet in Kris Letang’s locker, and the Penguins defenseman didn’t notice, going as far as wearing the wrong lid in warmups. Of course, the eternally grinning goalie got Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, too.
For the record, Letang didn’t think the tape on the visor was Fleury’s best.
“What’s that (going to do),” Letang mused.
The details of Fleury’s prank remain unreported, but Fleury got Crosby twice, once before the game and once after.
As much as we know, the pranks involved Crosby’s car and laundry.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I’ll respond accordingly,” Crosby said Wednesday with a hearty laugh.
Fleury earned win No. 549 Tuesday night, placing him two behind Patrick Roy for second on the NHL all-time wins list. He made 40 saves, beating the Boston Bruins. He’s also three games from playing his 1000th game.
Fleury has a few weeks to prepare for battle. The Penguins visit the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 9.
Monday was the debut of the newbie pairing of Erik Karlsson with Ryan Graves. The pair didn’t have great advanced analytics, as both were well underwater, but they passed the eye test.
But let’s get one thing out of the way. I was wrong in my Penguins postgame report card when I chided Graves for taking the wrong man in front of the net on Minnesota’s third goal. Vinni Lettieri deflected a shot past goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, but there were two Wild players near the Penguins’ net.
Based on past conversations with other defensemen who criticized themselves for losing the puck movement and taking the wrong player at the net front, I applied the same to Graves. However, after speaking with Graves about the goal Wednesday following practice at PPG Paints Arena — I was wrong.
Graves had a quick choice–he chose to cover the backdoor because he felt that was a more dangerous play, and the goalie had a better chance of stopping a deflection by a player squarely between the shooter and the goalie.
Unfortunately for Graves and Nedeljkovic, the shot was going wide, and Lettieri made a nice redirect.
Those are the breaks.
Graves was otherwise pretty happy with the first outing beside Karlsson. It certainly was a step forward for Graves, who has struggled at times with his game and the Penguins system this season.
“(It went) pretty good. We didn’t give up too many chances out here,” Graves told PHN. “I think our breakouts were pretty smooth. I think, as a team, we played pretty well in that game, so I’ll take my word for it. It’s all I know. It’s obviously it’s a process, but it shouldn’t be too much–we’ve shifts this year.”
The Penguins lines remained the same as they were Monday in the 4-3 win over Minnesota.
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Rickard Rakell
Reilly Smith-Evgeni Malkin-Valtteri Puustinen
Radim Zohorna-Lars Eller-Drew O’Connor
Jansen Harkins-Noel Acciari-Jeff Carter
Ryan Graves-Erik Karlsson
Marcus Pettersson-Kris Letang
John Ludvig-Chad Ruhwedel
*The team recalled Vinnie Hinostroza Wednesday. There are special circumstances allowing player movement during the roster freeze. Hinostroza was the extra forward at practice but did participate.