Fleury learns from gaffe

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Being portrayed as a national zero at the tender age of 19 would cause anyone to develop skin as thick as goalie pads, as Marc-Andre Fleury can attest.

It was just four short years ago that Fleury's clearing attempt in the third period of the 2004 world junior championship title game clanked off teammate Braydon Coburn and ricochetted into the Canadian net, the improbable go-ahead goal in Team USA's 4-3 gold-medal win.

Within hours of Fleury's glaring gaffe, replays were being shown on highlight packages that included other notable sporting goofs -- like the ball rolling through Bill Buckner's legs and Steve Smith firing the puck off the back of Grant Fuhr's leg and into his own net.

Fleury was a just a kid. He was voted the top goalie in the tournament. And still, the ridicule came.

"Maybe that experience taught me a lot," Fleury admitted yesterday. "The way I look at things now, if I've had a bad game, if I've had a bad day, you just leave it behind."

There have been very few bad days for Fleury in these 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, a run in which he is a perfect 6-0 with two shutouts.

And not even the nefarious efforts of the New York Rangers' Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan have been able to change that.

Avery chopped Fleury on the back of his legs in the waning seconds of Game 2 on Sunday, a 2-0 Penguins win. Fleury responded by thrusting his goal stick precariously close to the Avery family jewels, valuable air space that not so long ago was primarily reserved for his former flame, actress Elisha Cuthbert.

But the incident being talked about yesterday involved Shanahan, who, during the first period, was standing in the Pittsburgh crease, his back to Fleury, with his hands in the air, almost as if he was being robbed in some seedy Times Square alley.

Was it the same as Avery's shenanigans in the Rangers' first-round series against New Jersey? Absolutely not. Avery was looking Devils goalie Marty Brodeur in the eyes while doing his jumping-jacks routine.

"I just found (Shanahan) was in the crease a little more, and he pushed me around a bit," Fleury said. "I'm sure he's been doing a lot of that in his career. I don't know. I didn't really have time to chat with him."

Penguins coach Michel Therrien talked to the officials about Shanahan after the first period. "They assured me they are paying attention, and if a guy is in the crease then it will be no goal," Therrien said. "Shanny is going to try veteran things. We pointed it out."

There has been no shortage of effort on the Rangers' part to rattle their young opponents. They have accused Sidney Crosby of diving, had Jaromir Jagr follow Sid the Kid around the ices telling him to "just play hockey," and attempted to get in Fleury's face.

"That's gamesmanship," Crosby said. "It's not your favourite part of the game. But you have to deal with it."

Easier said than done. With his team up 2-0 in the series, Crosby expects to be loudly jeered tonight for Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, a place where Pittsburgh went 0-4 during the regular season.

And the Rangers are not about to stop their tactics. But Crosby and his teammates figure their goalie will keep his cool under that thick skin. After what Fleury went through at the '04 world juniors, what could be worse?


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