Return to Pittsburgh Will End in Loss for Vegas Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury

marc andre fleury

Matthew Jordan

Monday, February 5, 2018 6:50 PM UTC

Monday, Feb. 5, 2018 6:50 PM UTC

The marquee matchup in the NHL on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET) is Vegas at Pittsburgh in what should be an emotional return to the city for long-time ex-Penguin Marc-Andre Fleury.

Vegas Golden Knights at Pittsburgh PenguinsFree NHL Pick: PenguinsBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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There are 11 games to choose from on your NHL betting menu Tuesday, but one clearly stands apart as expansion Vegas makes its first-ever visit to two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh. It’s a 7 p.m. ET puck drop from PPG Paints Arena.

It’s quite possible the teams meet in the Cup Finals in June. We know all about how strong the Penguins can be come playoff time, while Vegas is having the best season of any expansion team in history – and not just NHL history but sports history – as it is battling for the Presidents’ Trophy. On 5Dimes NHL futures, a Golden Knights-Penguins Finals matchup is priced at +3050. That’s the seventh-shortest price of any exact scenario.

Pittsburgh’s first trip to Las Vegas ended in a 2-1 loss on Dec. 14 as Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves against his former team – he’s the clear-cut story line of Tuesday’s game. Jon Merrill had the go-ahead goal at 8:17 of the third. That remains his only goal of the season in 14 games. Matt Murray also had 24 saves for Pittsburgh.

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Emotional Return To Steel City

Fleury already has admitted this trip back to Pittsburgh will be bring “lots of mixed emotions.” He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft by the Penguins and helped lead them to three Stanley Cups – while also being a big part of the community with charities and such in becoming one of the most beloved players in team history. "Flower" holds franchise records with 375 wins and 44 shutouts.

Last February, Fleury, who will get his Stanley Cup ring from last season’s title Tuesday before the game, waived the no-movement clause in his contract so he could remain with the team the entire season. If he hadn’t done that, the Pens likely would have traded him because they would have had to protect him in the expansion draft. Pittsburgh’s future in net was Murray, so the Pens wanted to protect Murray; teams could only protect one goalie. The Penguins sent a second-round pick in 2020 to ensure Vegas would take Fleury. Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle said that he would have given up the $15 million expansion fee the team received if it meant being able to keep Fleury. That’s how popular he was.

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Marc-Andre Fleury: Hope­fully Pen­guins fans will re­mem­ber me for be­ing a good role model for kids and think that I showed them the right way. That it’s not just about hockey, but you should be re­spect­ful to­ward oth­ers and try to be a good per­son.”

— Allan Walsh (@walsha) February 5, 2018

Fleury is having a magnificent season in Vegas with a 15-4-2 record, 1.84 goals-against average and .939 save percentage – the latter two numbers are both second in the league to the Blues’ Carter Hutton. Fleury earned the 390th win of his career Sunday in a 4-3 upset at Washington. That allowed Fleury to pass Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek for sole possession of 13th place on the NHL's all-time list. Fleury is also third among active goalies in wins, trailing only the Panthers’ Roberto Luongo and Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist. If you are wondering, No. 1 all-time is Martin Brodeur with 691 wins.

Pittsburgh had a four-game winning streak snapped Saturday in a 3-1 defeat in New Jersey in the second of a back-to-back. The Pens had a season-low 16 shots. The lone bright spot was red-hot Evgeni Malkin scoring his 29th goal of the season. January’s NHL Player of the Month has eight goals in his last four games and 15 since New Year’s Day. He was named last week’s No. 1 star in the league Monday. Sidney Crosby had his 11-game point streak stopped. He remains a goal shy of 400 in his NHL career.

The Pens will be without winger Patric Hornqvist on Tuesday as he’s week-to-week with a lower-body injury. He was hurt Friday vs. the Capitals. Hornqvist has 16 goals and 15 assists. Team leading scorer Phil Kessel (23 goals, 40 assists) didn’t practice Monday due to illness but likely will play.

I actually believe the Fleury will be too emotional here and could struggle a bit. It’s also the fourth game in six nights for Vegas so the guys could be a bit tired. The Pens are on two days of rest and are 11-4 in their past 14 in that scenario. Go Pittsburgh on your Tuesday NHL pick.

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