PITTSBURGH — Crosby and Malkin. Malkin and Crosby. The Penguins' two stars get so much attention that the other key player who was largely responsible for them winning the Stanley Cup last season often isn't appreciated.
Marc-Andre Fleury made certain he wasn't overlooked in the Penguins' 2-1 victory over Montreal in Game 5 on Saturday night, one that Sidney Crosby labeled beforehand as their biggest must-win game since the finals against Detroit last spring.
Fleury made 32 saves, Kris Letang scored on a power play after accidentally setting up Montreal's decisive goal in the previous game and the Penguins moved within a victory of eliminating the Canadiens from the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"He was huge — and we need him to be like this," Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar said of Fleury.
Gonchar also scored as the Penguins put themselves in position to close out the series in Game 6 in Montreal on Monday night. The Canadiens, held to four goals in three games, must win to force a Game 7 on Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
Montreal rallied to win the final three games in the opening round against top-seeded Washington, but Pittsburgh hasn't blown a 3-2 lead since the 1996 Eastern Conference finals against Florida.
"Obviously, everybody still believes," Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak said. "It's 3-2, and we are still in it. We've been in this situation before."
Crosby remained without a goal in the series and Evgeni Malkin also didn't find the net — he did set up Letang's pivotal goal late in the first period — but the Penguins had enough offense without their stars to support Fleury's best game of the playoffs.
Trailing 2-0, Montreal pulled Halak to create a 6-on-4 advantage after Pascal Dupuis went off for slashing with 2:26 remaining and Mike Cammalleri scored his ninth goal, with 30 seconds to play. But it was much too late for the Canadiens, who couldn't solve Fleury much like the Penguins have struggled against Halak at times during a tightly played series.
The Penguins won 2-0 in Game 3 before losing 3-2 in Game 4, when Brian Gionta's decisive goal during a late Montreal comeback deflected off Letang's skate in the slot and into the net. But Fleury was under considerably more pressure and needed to make tougher saves than he did in Game 3.
"I felt useful tonight, you know," Fleury said.
"Against these guys, one mistake here or there and they'll be in the net," forward Scott Gomez said.
Letang got the important first goal with a shot from the left point at 18:18 of the first. Malkin carried the puck out from behind the net to open a shooting lane for Letang to score Pittsburgh's seventh goal in 16 power-play chances to that point.
Gonchar made it 2-0 midway through the second period while playing behind a makeshift line of Mike Rupp, the recently recalled Mark Letestu and Malkin. Gonchar took Brooks Orpik's cross-ice pass a few feet in front of the blue line and drove a shot past Halak.
"The defensemen did a great job of getting the shots through," Rupp said. "If we don't do that, we're not going to score on this guy (Halak)."
With forward Bill Guerin back after sitting out two games with an undisclosed injury, the Penguins also did a better job of crowding the net to make it difficult for Halak to see the puck clearly.
"They had the traffic all the time in front of me, and we didn't (in front of Fleury)," Halak said. "We made it easy on their goalie."
SHARKS 2, RED WINGS 1: At San Jose, Calif., Patrick Marleau scored the tiebreaking goal 6:59 into the third period and the San Jose Sharks eliminated the two-time defending Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings in Game 5 of their second-round series.
Joe Thornton scored the first goal for San Jose and then set up Marleau's tally with a pass from behind the net to help the Sharks advance to the conference final for the second time in franchise history by beating Detroit 4-1 in the series.
Marleau and goalie Evgeni Nabokov are the only two players remaining from the 2004 team that lost to Calgary in six games.
Detroit got its first goal early in the second when Brian Rafalski's point shot sneaked through to make it 1-0. Johan Franzen assisted on that goal, tying Gordie Howe's franchise record set in 1964 by recording a point in 12 straight playoff games.