Fleury Comes Up Big in Game 1 for Pittsburgh

Is it possible for a pass to be too good?
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↵That could be a question that ↵Carolina's Eric Stall and Jussi Jokinen might be asking themselves in the ↵immediate aftermath of Pittsburgh's 3-2 win over the Hurricanes in Game 1 of the ↵NHL Eastern Conference Finals.
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↵With less than 30 seconds remaining and ↵the Hurricanes pressing to tie the game and send it to overtime, Jokinen fired a ↵pass from the right wing faceoff circle through the crease to a waiting Staal on ↵the opposite post.  The pass was perfect, but Staal, for whatever reason, wasn't ↵ready, and the puck deflected off his stick straight back to Fleury, who ↵promptly fell on it to stop play.
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↵The Penguins goalie was the difference ↵on Monday night stopping 25 shots, including 12 in the first period and then ↵withstanding a final charge from the visitors in the game's final three minutes ↵to secure the win.
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↵Despite Carolina's early offensive pressure, it was ↵Pittsburgh who got on the board first with a pair of goals in less than 90 ↵seconds. The first came at 9:17 when Miroslav Satan popped out of the penalty ↵box and stepped behind the Carolina defense for a breakaway, finishing things ↵off with a backhand that beat a helpless Cam Ward (28 saves) for a 1-0 lead. ↵Then at 10:41, Philippe Boucher found a trailing Evgeni Malkin who put another ↵pretty backhand past Ward to make it 2-0.
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↵Carolina got on the board at ↵13:04 of the second period when a Chad LaRose wrist shot beat Fleury to cut the ↵lead in half.  A few minutes later, it appeared that Carolina tied the game on ↵another goal by LaRose, but it was wisely washed out by the referees after ↵Carolina winger Erik Cole checked Pittsburgh defenseman Hal Gill into ↵Fleury.
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↵Heading into the third period, Pittsburgh seemed content to ↵tighten down defensively, though it was able to stretch its lead to 3-1 courtesy ↵of a power play goal from Boucher, his first playoff goal since 2004.  For most ↵of the period, Pittsburgh played its defensive game to perfection, as it took ↵the Hurricanes almost 13 minutes before they registered their first shot on ↵goal.
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↵Things finally started turning Carolina's way with 2:34 remaining ↵as Brooks Orpik was sent off for elbowing. Lifting Ward for an extra attacker, ↵the Hurricanes pressed home their advantage and cut the deficit to just one goal ↵when defenseman Joe Corvo scored on a slap shot with 1:26 to go.
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↵From ↵there, the Hurricanes kept up the pressure after the ensuing faceoff, but Fleury ↵was equal to the challenge, with the closest calls coming on Jokinen's pass to ↵Staal as well as a long distance wrist shot from Corvo in the final seconds that ↵Fleury nearly fumbled.
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↵The loss came with other costs for Carolina.  ↵Hurricanes winger Tuomo Ruutu left the game in the first period after being ↵clipped from behind by Pittsburgh defender Mark Eaton, while Erik Cole was ↵knocked from the game in the third period after a knee-to-knee hit by Penguins ↵winger Matt Cooke. Lucky for them and their teammates, they'll have an extra day ↵to heal before returning to the ice for Game 2 of the series on Thursday night ↵in Pittsburgh.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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