SAN JOSE, Calif. — Marc-Andre Fleury was not warmly received by Sharks fans throughout NHL All-Star weekend, surely a residual effect from the Golden Knights eliminating San Jose in the playoffs.
When the “We want Fleury” chant started Saturday at SAP Center, the goaltender wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“I got booed until this time, so big emotions, right?” Fleury said. “Ups and down.”
Even with the rival fans giving him a hard time, Fleury managed to entertain in his brief appearance during the All-Star Game.
He was the recipient of, in order: a Bronx cheer, several giggles and, ultimately, genuine appreciation from the crowd in the Pacific Division’s 10-4 loss to the Central Division during the semifinals of the 3-on-3 tournament.
“Even if we’re playing for fun, it’s still disappointing to lose,” Fleury said. “I feel like you lose face a bit losing against the other guys. I wish I could have done better for the Sharks players.”
The Metropolitan Division defeated the Central 10-5 and will split the $1 million prize. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby took home MVP honors after a two-goal, three-assist effort in the final.
The Pacific entered as the defending champion and was 3-0 against the Central, outscoring them 24-11.
Anaheim’s John Gibson started but allowed seven goals on nine shots, which made the crowd more than a little antsy for Fleury to appear.
“Obviously you still care, but it is what it is,” Gibson said. “Hopefully if I’m (at the All-Star Game) next year it will be a little better.”
Fleury, wearing his gold pads, entered with his team down 7-1 and allowed a goal to Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog on the first shot he faced. (More boos ensued.)
When Fleury stopped the next shot from the Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, a sarcastic cheer followed.
Fleury acknowledged the fans with a not-so-subtle wave of his glove.
“Everyone was cheering when I made a little first save, so I just wanted to say thank you,” he said. “I’ve been in John’s shoes. I think when Columbus had the All-Star Game, I got booed and people were yelling to get me out of there. It’s not an easy place to be in.”
But the groans turned to laughs at 2:30 of the period when Fleury bolted from his crease and slid at the hashmarks in a feeble attempt to deny St. Louis’ Ryan O’Reilly on a breakaway.
O’Reilly skated around Fleury and tapped the puck in the open net, as Fleury was left spinning on his stomach.
“I think at the point the score was maybe 9-1 or 8-1, so I thought I may as well try something. Try to surprise him,” Fleury said. “But then I didn’t want to go all out and get his feet out, either. Maybe I should have stayed in my net. But I had a little bit of fun coming out, yes.”
Fleury finished with six saves on nine shots, and he turned away Chicago’s Patrick Kane on two breakaways in the final three minutes, much to the delight of the crowd.
San Jose’s Erik Karlsson finished with two goals, Brent Burns had a goal and an assist and Joe Pavelski added two assists to give the home fans some consolation.
“We’re usually on the other side the last few years,” Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty said. “It was tough for all of us.”
For Fleury, his attention now shifts to the bye week after starting 45 of the Knights’ first 52 games.
“I think for me it was a timely break, just get off the ice for the next few days here,” he said. “Rest, relax, heal a few little things and I’ll be good to go when we come back.”