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Marc-Andre Fleury’s bittersweet return to Pittsburgh, where fans will forever love him

February 6, 2018 GMT

Marc-Andre Fleury makes his long-awaited return to Pittsburgh — though Tuesday night’s game will be bittersweet for many fans as the Flower dons a Las Vegas Golden Knights sweater and occupies space on the visitors’ side of the ice.

The Penguins are expected to honor Fleury with a video tribute. The organization surely will look to top this one it shared after Las Vegas selected him first in June’s expansion draft:

Please share below your thoughts and memories of No. 29 in Pittsburgh.

Here are a few fond recollections to get the conversation started:

The beginning

The love affair never would have started if the Penguins hadn’t traded up in the 2003 draft to take Fleury No. 1 overall.

The moment happened inside Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena — a place that would come to bookend Fleury’s career with the Penguins.

“What a blessing,” Fleury wrote about being drafted in a letter to Pittsburgh fans published in June by The Players’ Tribune. “I would, maybe, get to play with Mario Lemieux. I would, hopefully, get to play for the team that had won back-to-back Stanley Cups in ’91-92. I would have a shot at playing in the NHL.

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“The next 14 years were beyond my wildest dreams.”

Stoning Ovechkin

Three minutes into Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinal at Verizon Center, Fleury robbed Alexander Ovechkin of a seemingly sure-fire breakaway goal. The phenomenal save set the tone in what unfolded as a 6-2 Penguins’ thrashing of the Capitals.

Then for good measure, he got Ovechkin again in the 2017 playoffs to shut out the Capitals and end their season.

His comments following the game:

Winning ’09 Cup

In the waning seconds of Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final against Detroit, Fleury dove to his right and blocked a Nicklas Lidstrom shot with his chest — helping the Penguins win the Cup and avenge losing to the Red Wings a season earlier.

Interview bombs

Trib columnist Tim Benz said his favorite Fleury memories tend to be locker room interviews, especially early in his career.

“Fleury’s English vocabulary wasn’t exactly ‘expansive’ at the time. He knew a few dozen words, and an inordinate percentage of them were words I can’t type here,” Benz wrote in an email. “And Fleury would often swear accidentally, realize it, and out of sheer goalie instinct try to cover up the interviewer’s microphone like he could stop the curse word from getting on the tape as if he was saving a puck from going in the net.”

An exchange between Benz and Fleury after a late goal cost him a shutout:

Benz: “You still mad about that goal?”

Fleury: “Oh yeah! As soon as it went in I was like, ‘(bleep)’! Oops. Sorry. (Second bleep). I can’t say (first bleep), can I?”

***Covers microphone****

Benz: “No, you can’t. And you can’t say (second bleep) either.”

Fleury: “Oh, good. Sorry. Shoot.”

***Covers microphone again***

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Benz: “No, that one you can say.”

Last dance

After hardly playing in the playoffs during the 2016 Stanley Cup run, the Penguins leaned on Fleury heavily in 2017 to get through the Eastern Conference gauntlet. First Columbus, then Washington and finally Ottawa — for three games at least.

He once again relinquished net duties to Matt Murray, and the Penguins once again hoisted the Cup after beating the Nashville Predators.

Fleury took a quick turn with the prized trophy and skated for the final time in his Penguins gear in the same arena where the organization drafted him 14 years earlier.

“Kind of ironic right now,” Fleury wrote in his open letter to fans. ”... I wish I could have been in net for my last game as a Penguin. But we raised the Cup, again, and it made all the sacrifices worthy.”