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Fleury brings the usual stability to Wild entering Game 3 against Blues

The veteran goaltender made 32 saves Wednesday in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round to help the Minnesota Wild to a 6-2 victory against the St. Louis Blues at the Xcel Energy Center that tied the best-of-7 series. .

“Getting a win at home and having the fans cheer from start to finish, it was a good moment,” Fleury said. “It was a fun game to play and I hope we have many more.”

Fleury had so much fun playing this game for 18 NHL seasons, and now he has another fond memory for the highlight reel. He also planted a seed with the Blues about how difficult this series can be when it moves to the Enterprise Center for Game 3 on Friday (9:30 pm ET; TNT, SN360, TVAS2, BSMW, BSN, BSWIX).

Fleury has played 162 more Stanley Cup Playoff games than the goalkeeper in front of him. ville hussowho made 37 saves in a 4-0 victory in his NHL postseason debut on Monday, but allowed goals on two of the first three shots he faced on Wednesday.

Fleury is like a security blanket for her team. Savage coach Dean Evason called him predictable, the highest praise he has for any player.

The goalkeeper will never reach too high or too low. The game has humiliated Fleury too many times.

[RELATED: Complete Wild vs. Blues series coverage]

Monday’s loss, when Fleury had 27 saves, wasn’t fun for him or Wild, but it also wasn’t the moment when the sky fell and some saw it. It was certainly an uneven performance, one that squandered the home-ice advantage the Wild had earned when they finished the regular season with an all-time high 113 points to take second place in the Central Division. , four points ahead of the Blues.

But Fleury turns despair into hope. He is one of his greatest gifts as a goalkeeper and teammate.

She brings a positive attitude and an infectious smile wherever she goes. He exudes confidence and nonchalance, no small feat for a team seeking playoff swagger.

Yes, there were the expected calls from a nervous fan base clamoring for Minnesota to start Cam Talbot, Wild’s No. 1 goalie before Fleury was snapped up from the Chicago Blackhawks before the NHL’s March 21 trade deadline, in Game 2. After all, Talbot hasn’t lost since March 1 , going 13-0-3 in 17 games. (16 starts). Fleury had a save percentage below .900 in five of his six starts before Wednesday.

Evason heard the screams. Heck, he said they even invaded the sanctuary of the coaches’ room in the tense lead-up to Game 2. Coaches were watching previous playoff games, seeking respite from the relentless pressure, trying to be fanatics for a few minutes beforehand. started his game.

Instead, there were the TV analysts, analyzing Fleury’s “mistakes” in Game 1, advocating for Talbot, making compelling TV doing his job.

“I’m glad I didn’t [listen] because it’s like, who cares?” Evason said. “You know he’s going to respond appropriately. It’s what he does. It’s how he does it. That’s why we have it here. And he clearly is a world-class goalkeeper who has won Stanley Cups.

“My God, if you don’t think he’s been through a game where maybe the weird bounce didn’t go our way, landed on his tape or whatever, I’m pretty sure he’s not bothered by it.”

Nothing bothers Fleury for long. That’s his secret weapon, the one that has allowed him to survive and thrive, playing perhaps the loneliest and most mentally demanding position in sports.

He has won the Stanley Cup three times with the Pittsburgh Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017) and reached the Stanley Cup Final two other times, with the Penguins in 2008 and with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in 2018.

He has endured painful, public breakups with the Penguins, the team he pledged his allegiance to as an 18-year-old after he was selected No. 1 in the 2003 NHL Draft, and the Golden Knights after being the face of the franchise. during that magical first season only to be written off last offseason, traded to the Blackhawks in a salary purge.

Fleury said it was hard to fall asleep after Game 1, with him repeating the situations that plague all perfectionists. But he showed up on the track Tuesday with a smile on his face and probably a joke in mind. The only thing he didn’t do was listen to the negativity swirling around him.

Tunnel vision, in the most positive sense.

Fleury said of the root of his success, “I think stay away from the media, stay away from social media, stay away from what people think or say and just come back ready to play the next game.”

The Wild had plenty of offensive help Wednesday to win Game 2, particularly from Kirill Caprizov Y Joel Eriksson Ekwhich combined to score five goals.

Fleury was in the background, bringing much-needed resolve.

He was throwing himself all over the ice, sometimes making the average save look spectacular and the spectacular ordinary. He would rub his glove against the post after a particularly stressful run of play, one of the idiosyncrasies of a goalkeeper known to thank the inanimate objects around him when he survives a sticky situation.

The 37-year-old then patted Eriksson Ek on the leg and sang the 25-year-old striker’s praises as they shared the podium at the post-game media availability, further fostering camaraderie and trust in a way that only Fleury can.

The goaltender had to be good at times, especially when the Blues were pressing hard, forcing the Wild to white-knuckle their way through a lull late in the second period and early in the third.

Fleury did what the moment demanded.

“I think everything went a little bit better for us as a team, and that makes me look better,” he said.

The opposite was closer to the truth.

Things went a little better for Fleury, as expected, and that made Wild look better in Game 2, and more dangerous going forward.