Marc-Andre Fleury earns 500th win as Blackhawks shut out Canadiens

Montreal fans chanted Fleury’s name in the waning seconds of his historic 30-save night, even as the Blackhawks closed out a 2-0 win over the host Canadiens.

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Chicago Blackhawks v Montreal Canadiens

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MONTREAL — Canadiens fans haven’t been able to cheer their team much this season. But they’re still proud of their own.

Roaring chants of “Fleu-ry” echoed throughout the Bell Centre in the waning seconds of the Blackhawks’ 2-0 win Thursday over the Canadiens.

It was the perfect storybook outcome — Marc-Andre Fleury earned his 500th career win with a shutout in Montreal. 

The native of Sorel-Tracy, a small Quebec town about an hour northeast of the city, became only the third goalie in NHL history to reach the milestone, joining fellow French Canadian icons Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.

“It meant a lot to have so many people from Quebec, being proud of me being from here and achieving this goal.” Fleury said, his signature smile draped across his face.

“Since the beginning of my career, it’s always special when I come to Montreal and play here, just because I’ve grown up idolizing them, right? It’s always special playing in front of the Quebecers, my friends and family. Everybody’s watching, and a lot of them were at the game tonight.”

Jonathan Toews’ long-awaited first goal of the season, which gave the Hawks the lead in the second period, was completely overshadowed in comparison. So was Henrik Borgstrom’s odd promotion to first-line center, which paid off when he added an insurance goal with eight minutes to play.

Thursday was Fleury’s night.

The veteran goalie finished with 30 saves, a number of which came in the final minutes as the Canadiens pushed during six-on-five play — finally penetrating another overall stout defensive showing by the Hawks. But Fleury insisted the possible shutout, and the cherry on top for the night, never crossed his mind.

“I just wanted to win,” he said. “Bottom line, every night, that’s all I want: I want to win. Whether it’s 5-4 [or] 2-0, it’s just trying to find a way to win games. I’m happy it worked out tonight.”

After the final horn, the team swarmed him with a 20-man group hug against the boards as much of the crowd of 20,447 stuck around to give a standing ovation. 

He was named the first star, which isn’t uncommon as a winning goalie on the road, but came out of the tunnel to wave, which is completely unprecedented for any player on the road team. Then again, his accomplishment itself isn’t far from unprecedented.

“What a classy thing with the Habs fans,” interim coach Derek King said. “We thought we’d stay on the ice, just as coaches, just to give him some knuckles. But the fans, it was unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

In Fleury’s end-of-career highlight video — whenever the time comes for that to be compiled — this clip of him in a white-and-red Hawks sweater will likely be a strange sight, considering how many years he spent in Penguins and Golden Knights gold. 

After all, it was just his eighth career win with the Hawks. He’s now 8-10-0 with a .913 save percentage this season.

But Fleury has quickly become an integral member of the team, with his ever-positive attitude proving to be the right kind of contagious around the locker room. It feels like he has been in Chicago four years, not four months. 

In one final fitting element, the team celebrated postgame — in Montreal fashion — with a meal of poutine. Fleury admitted he took “a couple of bites.”

“We were all putting a little pressure on ourselves to play for him in this game,” Toews said. “He’s a special player and a special person. Obviously, there’s a lot of reasons why he’s got such a great reputation. So we’re pretty happy to be out there on the ice with him for this win.”

“We wanted to win ... but we wanted to win for him,” King added.

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