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Even In A Loss, Fleury Shines

Wednesday, 11.5.2003 / 1:10 AM ET / News
Toronto Maple Leafs
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Even In A Loss, Fleury Shines
by Mike Ball
November 4, 2003

(TORONTO) -- Almost lost in all the pugilism Tuesday night was the Canadian debut of the 18 year-old, first-overall draft selection that has NHL snipers shaking their heads.

He didn't get the start at the Bell Centre in Montreal a week into the season, so for Marc-Andre Fleury, this was his first taste of NHL action played under the spotlight of a huge hockey market.

It wasn't the kind of start he was hoping for.

Fleury flashed his lightning-quick pads all night Tuesday.
(Graig Abel Photography)

At the 1:38 mark of the first frame Aki Berg slapped a mean shot from the point off a perfect pass from Owen Nolan. He would allow three more goals on a total of 38 shots in the 4-2 Maple Leafs win.

Noted though should be the 34 saves. Fleury distinguished himself and earned his third-star nod with a number of quick stops in his soon-to-be trademarked style. He has been named a star in seven of his eight games in the regular season.

"He gives us a chance and he keeps us in games, early and late," said head coach Eddie Olczyk.  "I think he was a little nervous tonight with coming to Canada and playing for the first time. But he played exceptionally well and we have to give him a lot more help."

"I guess every game it's a little bit new, new rink. You know, Ed Belfour was playing," said the rookie, as always, smiling. "For sure maybe I was a little bit (nervous) but, I just try to play it calm."

Part of the problem is that Fleury is facing too many shots with this Penguins squad in front of him, but he seems to take it in stride like most other things that cross his path.

"In junior I was used to a lot of shots. It's not so bad. As long as we have a chance to win."

Heading into Tuesday's bout the Penguins led the league in shots allowed with 33.9 per, meanwhile Fleury led the NHL in save percentage (.942) with a stand-out goals against of 1.95.

Eighteen or not and only eight games into his first NHL season, it appears he'll be just fine.

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