When the legendary Marc-Andre Fleury streaked out on the ice at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night, the crowd showered him with cheers. Anyway, it was just warm-ups.
With more than 30 minutes to go before the puck dropped, hundreds of fans showed up early to catch a glimpse of “Flower” ahead of his much-anticipated Wild debut. The warm-up cheers turned into a deafening roar when announcer Adam Abrams announced Fleury as the starting goalkeeper.
His mere presence sparked an inspired game of wilds early on as they masterfully defended themselves in their own zone. In fact, it was up to 4 minutes and 45 seconds into the game for Fleury to make his first save as a member of the Wilden, a casual rejection from rookie Cole Sillinger.
His final save of the night was far more important.
While announced sniper Patrik Laine sped down the left flank in overtime, Fleury stood upright to deflect the puck out of the way. Less than a minute later, Jared Spurgeon played hero, scoring a backhand shot to lead the Wild to a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“It’s very nice for us to stick with it and fight for it and give (Fleury) the first win,” said Fiala, who set up Spurgeon’s goal. “Very happy for him.
Immediately after the game winner, half the team went to Spurgeon, the other half to Fleury.
“I’m just happy about a win,” said Fleury with a smile. “That’s all I wanted for the first game here. I was just happy to celebrate with the guys.”
While both Spurgeon and Fleury went into overtime, Kirill Kaprizov was the only reason the game went into overtime in the first place. He scored twice in the game and scored a shot on goal midway through the first period to make it 1-0.
From there it looked like the Wild could run away as they dominated the Blue Jackets. Unfortunately for the Wild, like last month when they played away to the Blue Jackets, they failed to score the breakup goal.
That came back to haunt the Wild in the second period when the Blue Jackets tied the game 1-1 on a goal by Jake Bean. That result lasted late into the second half when Jakub Voracek fired a shot past Fleury to make it 2-1.
“I think our second period kind of got away from what we were doing,” Spurgeon said. “Just too long shifts and then we’re stuck out there. And we’re not as aggressive as usual, which makes us good. We had to fix that.”
Wild did just that in the third period, dominating the game for long stretches before Kaprizov leveled the game with a clutch strike in the final minutes to make it 2-2. He collected a pass from Jonas Brodin as time passed and unleashed a laser that found the back of the net.
“We had a really long time down there,” said coach Dean Evason. “I think the guys thought it was a matter of time.”
That set the stage for overtime, in which Fleury came up with a big save against Laine to keep the Wild alive before Spurgeon hit the game-winner.
As Fleury took to the ice after the game, a fan appropriately tossed a bouquet of flowers at his feet. He couldn’t remember a time in his career where anyone had done anything like that. He appreciated the gesture.
“I felt like a figure skater,” Fleury said, laughing. “It was nice to win this game at home.”
https://www.twincities.com/2022/03/26/wild-beat-blue-jackets-3-2-in-marc-andre-fleurys-team-debut/ Wild defeated Blue Jackets 3-2 on Marc-Andre Fleury’s team debut