Jan 15, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) stands during the national anthem before playing the Washington Capitals at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury Smartly Saved From Needless Goalie Fight

Even for an anti-fighting advocate like myself, Marc-Andre Fleury provided some comic relief late in the third period of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-1 home dismantling of Montreal on Wednesday night.

Following a pile-up in his crease, the Penguins goalie tried to orchestrate a fight with Canadiens counterpart Peter Budaj, who had come on in relief of Habs starter Carey Price.

The scene would’ve been even more interesting if it featured Fleury and Price exchanging verbal barbs. That would’ve been a showdown of Team Canada’s presumed Olympic starter and a man who some claim has reason to be upset for getting left off the Sochi roster.

As it was, though, Fleury and Budaj shedding their masks to square off was enough to get what was left of the Consol Energy Center crowd more excited than usual for a late-game dust-up. But before the two ‘tenders could meet, referee Kyle Rehman and linesman Derek Amell got in between to keep them apart:

The officials’ forced peacemaking disappointed many of the fans, in addition to Fleury and Budaj. More importantly, the preemptive strike against the budding goalie fight may also indicate that we’ve seen the last of that rare spectacle, at least if the NHL can help it.

If the league is planning on formally banning goalie fights in the near future, as some have reported, then it’s a very smart move. In this era of increased concussion awareness, I believe bare-knuckle fighting to be a needless risk for all involved, but that’s especially the case when netminders shed their (very large) gloves.

Penguins fans should know this already, even if they enjoyed Brent Johnson‘s knockout of the Islanders’ Rick DiPietro three years ago. Johnson landed a left-hand punch on DiPietro’s cheek, shattering the bone beneath.

For an even more vicious example of why the league is getting more proactive on preventing goalie battles, we only need to look back to last fall, when Philadelphia’s Ray Emery – a noted boxing enthusiast – pummeled unwilling and unprepared Capitals goalie Braden Holtby during a particularly contentious game.

With just a handful of goaltenders available to each organization, and maybe a couple who can hack it at the NHL level, it makes sense that the league’s general managers and other power brokers would order a crackdown. A new rule may not be in the books at this point, but judging from Wednesday’s action, officials have likely already been instructed to throw themselves on the grenade, so to speak.

Comments from Penguins coach Dan Bylsma after the game indicate that he wasn’t too excited about the prospect of Fleury risking his health for a few awkward punches at center ice. With veteran backup Tomas Vokoun a long way from returning to the team and relatively untested rookie Jeff Zatkoff as the current No. 2, Pittsburgh may be the NHL team that can least afford to lose its starting goalie.

Pens fans were deprived of seeing a rare occurrence, but they still witnessed a memorable moment and Fleury avoided injury. That sounds like an good trade.

Tags: Dan Bylsma Marc-Andre Fleury Pittsburgh Penguins

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