Wild's Marc-Andre Fleury victorious on his celebratory night

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Wild's Marc-Andre Fleury victorious on his celebratory night

ST. PAUL, Minn. — On Marc-Andre Fleury Night, during an evening in which the future Hall-of-Fame goaltender was showered with gifts, accolades and applause with his family on hand and his former Pittsburgh Penguins as the visitor, Fleury capped a heartwarming evening with 32 saves and his 553rd career victory during a hard-fought 33-save win.

Fleury, starting for the first time since he was concussed Jan. 19 at Florida and being honored for recently playing his 1,000th game and passing Patrick Roy for second all-time in regular-season victories, brushed off the pregame waterworks with a stellar performance behind a Wild team that defended well in front of him.

Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy and Jonas Brodin each had a goal and an assist with Kaprizov scoring the winner with 10:36 left in the third period. The Wild won their second in a row since the All-Star break by snapping Pittsburgh’s 10-game point streak against them.

  • The Wild moved within three points of St. Louis for the eighth and final playoff spot. However, there’s still three teams between St. Louis and the Wild, and the Blues have two games in hand.
  • Marcus Foligno was injured on a late second-period tripping minor by Marcus Pettersson. He returned for the third period, but he played an 11-second shift on an early penalty kill and immediately left the ice, slammed his stick and limped down the tunnel for good.
  • The Wild will practice Sunday, then spend Sunday at the site of the Super Bowl, Las Vegas, where they begin a two-game trip Monday against the Golden Knights.

Fleury honored, then victorious vs. his original team

Fleury walked into an arena with flowers everywhere. Players and coaches had flowers on their jacket lapels. Goalie partner Filip Gustavsson showed up with a flower wreath on his head. Fleury got a brief solo lap in warmups. Every Wild player wore pregame jerseys with the No. 29 and FLEURY nameplates on the back. Giant numbers 1,000 and 552 made of flowers bordered the red carpet where he was honored by owner Craig Leipold, president of hockey operations and GM Bill Guerin, NHL executive Kay Whitmore, his mom, France, his sister, Marylene, his wife, Veronique and his children, Estelle, Scarlett and James.

The pregame tribute video was beautiful with the most poignant moments coming at the end from his kids, especially Estelle: “It’s not the tie that’s magical. It’s you.” His children also read the pregame lineup in the locker room. Then, in the game, Fleury was sound as can be, even making a couple robberies on pal Sidney Crosby and casually stopping an Erik Karlsson dribbler that he twice batted in the air with his paddle before slipping into his glove for a stoppage.

Faber breaks rookie records

Brock Faber, a contender to be the second Calder Trophy winner in Wild history, assisted on Boldy’s first-period goal for his 11th point in the past nine games. He has points in eight of those games. Faber, 21, leads all NHL rookies in assists, blocked shots (102) and time on ice (24:58 a game) and leads all rookie defensemen in scoring. The assist was his 27th and the point was his 31st. The assists set a team record for rookies overall, passing Calen Addison. The points set a team record for rookie defensemen, passing Filip Kuba.

Kaprizov redeems himself for penalty

Kaprizov had one weird game. He made the great play to set up Boldy’s 17th goal. He was blatantly interfered with before Evgeni Malkin set up Reilly Smith’s goal. No call. That fired him up to the point that he got into it with Bryan Rust for coincidental minors the next shift. Then, early in the third, he took a soft hooking penalty that did lead to a turnover on a Wild power play, so the refs felt compelled to call it.

That led to Crosby’s tying goal on the ensuing power play. But late in the third, a deflected Zach Bogosian point shot ricocheted right to him for his 20th goal of the season and a two-point game. The Wild wound up on the power play after his goal because Pittsburgh challenged that Pettersson deflected a puck over the glass before the goal. But after a 7-minute, 13-second review, the refs awarded the goal. Kaprizov also hit the post twice in the game.

Three stars

1. Fleury, Wild: Nothing he could do on either goal against him by Crosby or Smith. But he was just solid in his first start in three weeks to win his ninth game of the season.
2. Bogosian, Wild: Hard-nosed defenseman was a huge part of the Wild’s 5 for 6 penalty kill, including a double minor on Jake Middleton 25 seconds into the game, was physical, skated with the puck with confidence and assisted on Kaprizov’s winner.
3. Kaprizov, Wild: A goal for his fourth consecutive 20-goal season and an assist to give him 12 goals and 23 points in his past 16 games.

(Photo: Matt Blewett / USA Today)