Dec 5, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) makes a glove save as San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) looks for a rebound during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins respond to Sharks' criticism of Marc-Andre Fleury

As one would expect after a 44-save performance, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was brought up often in the San Jose Sharks’ dressing room late Thursday night at Consol Energy Center.

However, instead of offering compliments on Fleury’s play, many Sharks disparaged what they thought was a fortunate performance by the Pittsburgh netminder. San Jose center Logan Couture had the strongest criticism, saying he thought Fleury was “shaky” in the Pens’ 5-1 win.

On Friday, the Penguins had their chance to respond to the Sharks’ comments, which did have some basis in truth. Fleury often had to scramble to deny quality opportunities, and there’s always some luck involved in that.

Nevertheless, it was odd to hear the Sharks speak out to such a degree, even though captain Joe Thornton and coach Todd McLellan offered praise for Fleury and the Penguins in general.

Fleury had the sharpest retort to Couture, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Shelly Anderson after Friday’s morning skate, “Maybe he should’ve put [the puck] in then. What was he doing?”

Sidney Crosby, who had three assists in the Penguins’ fifth straight victory, was slightly more diplomatic about the situation, saying, “it didn’t seem like [Fleury] was…fighting the puck.”

Defenseman Matt Niskanen seemed the most offended by Couture’s comments:

Usually cross-conference matchups don’t inspire much in the way of outward emotion, but clearly this was a special case. The two teams, both of whom lead their divisions, will meet again March 6 in San Jose. If Fleury is healthy, he’ll likely get an opportunity to double-down on Thursday’s high-quality effort.

Note: The Penguins announced that forward Harry Zolnierczyk was recalled from their AHL club in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He will replace Andrew Ebbett, who suffered a broken ankle against the Sharks.

Zolnierczyk, 26, has appeared in three games for the Penguins this year, recording zero points and two shots on goal. He has nine goals and three assists in 18 AHL games. The 30-year-old Ebbett suited up five times for Pittsburgh, earning an assist in bottom-six duty.

Tags: Marc-Andre Fleury Matt Niskanen Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby

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