For the last 13 seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins have known only one real starting goaltender. Marc-Andre Fleury was the beating heart of a Penguins team that won three Stanley Cups over the course of nine seasons, but he was often overlooked in the national spotlight for stars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Fans were, understandably, gutted when Fleury was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the recent expansion draft, though it was a foregone conclusion for some time. On Thursday, Fleury finally faced his old team for the first time as the Golden Knights hosted the Penguins.
In practices leading up to the fated meeting, the Penguins themselves were excited and already a bit emotional on the prospect of facing their former teammate:
Crosby, on if he scores against Fleury: "It’ll be a pretty big smile if it ends up happening." -SK— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) December 14, 2017
Letang on facing Fleury: "It’s going to be an emotional night tomorrow when we’re facing him. Obviously Marc-Andre was a special guy, a special player for the Penguins. It’s going to fun to see him. It would be better on our side." -SK— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) December 14, 2017
In Thursday night’s game, Fleury was slated to match up against successor Matt Murray, adding more narrative punch to a game filled to the brim with it. Both goaltenders were recently injured, making it nearly a game-time decision on whether fans would get their matchup.
As game time drew near, Fleury hung out on the bench and chatted with a few old teammates:
A few other former Penguins teammates also hung around after warm-ups:
Murray and Fleury give each other a stick tap on the pads before they stretch at the red line together -SK— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) December 15, 2017
old acquaintance not forgot pic.twitter.com/0mrwx8akBm— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 15, 2017
Nice moment between former teammates Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury before they faceoff for the first time tonight pic.twitter.com/YJqLXFllQ5— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 15, 2017
Neal, Perron and Fleury the last 3 Knights to leave the ice. All former #Pens. This is a big game for a lot of guys (including Engelland) -SK— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) December 15, 2017
Apparently Murray just wanted to tell his old mentor that he missed having him around. Here’s to guessing a lot of people in Pittsburgh feel that way:
Murray approached Fleury during warm-ups. "I just wanted to tell him I miss him."— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) December 15, 2017
Fleury also got a huge ovation from Vegas fans and Pittsburgh fans alike during the starting lineup announcement:
both sides agree: fleury is awesome pic.twitter.com/bqaqK0aEO0— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 15, 2017
There were even typical Fleury antics during the game, as the netminder showed off some skill in knocking away a Penguins chance at the blue line:
FLEURY COMING IN LIKE A WRECKING BALL pic.twitter.com/KiWrs7AQFj— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 15, 2017
And even a move Penguins fans will recognize from their Stanley Cup runs:
So... like we said... seen this one before from Fleury... pic.twitter.com/8lvF4DbLJl— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) December 15, 2017
If Penguins and Golden Knights games are now this fun thanks to Fleury’s connection to Pittsburgh, we’ll take this every time.