ST. LOUIS – Marc-Andre Fleury started 16 of the last 17 games heading into the All-Star break. No sign of fatigue from the Pittsburgh Penguins goalie.
Chris Kunitz scored the deciding goal on a backhander in the fourth round of a shootout after Fleury thwarted a handful of great chances late in regulation and in overtime, and the Penguins took a seven-game winning streak into the break with a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.
All seven wins have come with Fleury in net. His biggest save against the Blues might have come on a point blank redirect attempt by Patrik Berglund, bidding for a hat trick, in the final minute of regulation.
“Just some unbelievable, acrobatic saves, flash of the pads,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “In the shootout again he comes up just big enough.”
Berglund ended a seven-game point drought with a pair of goals and tied it on a penalty shot early in the third period for the Blues, who erased a two-goal, second-period deficit. They’re an NHL-best 21-3-4 at home and 9-0-2 against the Eastern Conference, recovering for a point one night after missing a chance to grab the overall NHL lead in a loss at Detroit.
“Every time you score a goal I think you gain a little confidence,” Berglund said. “I just kept pushing and the pucks bounced my way a little bit, too.
“It was a fun game to be a part of.”
NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin got the other shootout goal for the Penguins after getting shut down by the Blues’ top line, headed by David Backes. Malkin had totalled nine goals and 13 points in a six-game goal streak.
T.J. Oshie scored in the shootout for St. Louis but Fleury made a glove save against Berglund, the Blues’ first shooter.
“He got his two goals already,” Fleury said. “So I tried to be patient on the last one and I made the save.”
Pittsburgh’s winning streak has followed a six-game skid—its longest since 2006. It marks a season best for the Penguins, who went to overtime for the fourth time in five games. The last three meetings between St. Louis and Pittsburgh have gone to overtime.
“I keep going back to it, but the way we stayed positive during that losing streak,” forward James Neal said, explaining Pittsburgh’s recent success. “When everyone was talking about our team and what’s wrong with it, we didn’t let that affect us. We did our talking on the ice.”
The Blues were short-handed when Oshie stole the puck from Kris Letang in the neutral zone and passed to Berglund, who was motoring up the middle before getting hooked by Letang in the slot. Berglund is 0 for 7 for his career in the shootout, but was slick on the penalty shot, giving Fleury an inside deke before scoring on a high wrist shot off the forehand to make it 2-all.
Fleury has appeared in 22 consecutive games overall, three more than his previous high.
Neal scored his 27th goal, matching his career best, as the Penguins capitalized on a holding penalty to Backes early in the second. It also was the 100th career goal for Neal, whose one-timer trickled between Elliott’s pads.
The Blues have allowed four power-play goals in the last three games.
The Penguins made it 2-0 at 12:16 on a midair deflection by Steve Sullivan, who batted the puck in after defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo whiffed. Deryk Engelland started the play with a wrist shot from the point and the puck appeared to bounce off the skate of a Blues player on its way to the net.
Berglund’s first point in eight games came on a 2-on-1 break with Chris Stewart and cut the deficit to one at 15:16.
“I thought the weight of the world went off his shoulders when he scored, and then he started really playing and dancing with the puck,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He was a threat every shift. He plays like that coming back he’s going to be a tough guy to play against.”
The Penguins had to sweat out the end of regulation after Matt Cooke drew a boarding call on a hit that rammed defenceman Barret Jackman’s head into the glass.
Notes: Neal has six goals and five assists in the last seven games. He also scored 27 goals in 2009-10 with Dallas. … The Penguins had a 39-34 shots edge and have outshot their last 15 opponents. … The penalty-shot goal was the Blues’ first since Backes vs. the Sharks’ Antero Niittymaki on Dec. 18, 2010. … The Blues are the only team in the NHL to get at least one point in every game against the opposite conference. … Malkin is 5 for 7 in the shootout.