Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/14/13
Marc-Andre Fleury might have whistled a couple of tunes. Tightened his laces. Groomed his crease. There was a lot of time for the Penguins goaltender to kill early in a game Friday night against the New Jersey Devils at Consol Energy Center. "I was a little lonely back there," Fleury said after the Penguins hung on for a 3-2 win, their seventh home victory in a row. Business picked up for Fleury after a first period in which his teammates staked him to a 3-0 lead. And how. Fleury, who notched his league-leading 18th win, stopped the seven shots he faced in the first period, then stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced over the final two periods, a few of them stellar saves. "Our goaltender was the best player on the ice by far," Penguins winger Chris Kunitz said. "He made huge saves for us. That's the only way we got a win." It was a maneuver by Kunitz that got the Penguins into a scoring mode early. Approaching the blue line on the opening shift, he chipped the puck past Devils defensemen Andy Greene and Mark Fayne -- and right on goaltender Cory Schneider. Schneider bobbled the puck, allowing Kunitz to race in and take a poke at it before Pascal Dupuis swept in and punched the puck over the goal line for a 1-0 Penguins lead 41 seconds into the first period. "Obviously, it's an inexcusable goal," Schneider said. "That can't happen at this level. It's not fair to my teammates to put them down like that 40 seconds into the game." Sidney Crosby got the other assist, pushing his NHL-leading total to 44 points. It gave him at least one point in each of the Penguins' past 11 home games. It was the fastest goal given up by New Jersey this season, and the fastest scored by the Penguins. "I just wanted to try and bounce one in on him," Kunitz said of Schneider. "The first one of the day, you never know how it's going to go." At 7:55 of the first period, after a mid-ice turnover by the Devils, Brandon Sutter, from the right half-wall, set up Chris Conner alone in front of Schneider, and Conner's forehand shot sailed past the goalie's blocker for a 2-0 Penguins lead. Jayson Megna got a rebound of a shot by Simon Despres and put it in off of the right post to push the Penguins' advantage to 3-0 at 14:40 of the first period. "We started the game at 7:45 p.m. instead of 7 o'clock tonight," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "You can't do that against any team, never mind Pittsburgh." The three goals were the most the Penguins have scored in a first period this season, and they came on their first nine shots.
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