Marc-Andre Fleury is a surefire Hall of Famer when he retires. His resume sports 534 wins – third-most in NHL history – and a Vezina Trophy. Fleury’s also won three Stanley Cup championships, all with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But if there’s one player that’s given MAF fits throughout his 19 seasons in the NHL, it’s Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals captain has scored 25 different times against Fleury — the most of any goaltender in his career.
“I don’t know if I’m too proud of that,” Fleury said to NHL.com in an interview.
At opposite ends of the Capitals-Penguins rivalry, the two players battled against each other for conference and league supremacy for over a decade. From 2009 to 2018, Fleury-led teams stood in the way of the Capitals four different times in the playoffs, with 2018 being the lone year Ovechkin was able to break through. MAF was the starting netminder for the Vegas Golden Knights that year in the Stanley Cup Final.
“It’s still good memories walking in the building, skating out,” Fleury said. “I’ve had some good battles with them, some fun battles. It was fun the rivalry with Pittsburgh, with obviously Sid and Ovi, but it was high-scoring, always fun, good battles. Every night, you were in for a good game.”
Fleury, 38, now plays for the Minnesota Wild where he has one year remaining on a two-year, $7 million contract he signed over the offseason. He served as backup on Tuesday to Filip Gustavsson who led the Wild to a 4-2 victory over Washington.
“I like to play against [Ovi],” Fleury said. “I think he brings the best out of you.
“He’s never slowed down,” he added. “He doesn’t miss games. Every season, he’s consistent scoring goals and his shot is still amazing. He can shoot that one-timer so hard.”
Ovechkin stands 84 goals behind Wayne Gretzky on the NHL’s all-time goals list. Fleury said Ovechkin “deserves” the record due to his incredible consistency, durability, and dedication over the years.
The two have long had a friendly rivalry on the ice, which included messing with each other during warmups of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. During Game One, MAF squirted Gatorade on the Capitals’ side of the ice. Ovechkin returned the favor in Game Five, by slapping Fleury with his stick on the VGK’s side.
Ovechkin would later score in the second period of the team’s Cup-clinching game.
“Sometimes he’ll come and say ‘Hi,'” Fleury said of their rivalry. “He’ll say ‘Hi’ or ‘Oh, I almost got you. I’m going to get you on the next one.’ And I’m like, ‘No way. You’re not getting [anything].’ It’s funny, though. I like how he does it.”
While the two have great respect for each other, Fleury was unwilling to come to the Capitals last season as his name swirled in trade rumors. The Chicago Blackhawks wanted to fully commit to a rebuild and the Capitals felt like they needed a veteran netminder presence with both Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek in net. After Fleury was ultimately traded to Minnesota, he admitted he nixed a trade to Washington because it wouldn’t seem right.
“I wouldn’t say I wasn’t interested,” Fleury said. “From what I’ve heard, they have a great organization. They have a lot of good players, a lot of talent, a good city and all that. But, I don’t know. To me, it was just weird because, I don’t know, they were like the enemy for so long.”
Fleury will have one final opportunity to suit up against the Capitals this season on March 19 when Washington travels out to Xcel Energy Center.
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