For The Associated Press
OTTAWA (AP) -Marc-Andre Fleury stumbled in his NHL playoff debut yet the Pittsburgh Penguins are still squarely behind their promising young goaltender.
Despite being pulled midway through the third period of Wednesday's 6-3 series-opening loss in Ottawa, Fleury will start Saturday in Game 2 of Pittburgh's first-round series against the Senators.
``I'm looking forward to going in again and trying to get the win,'' Fleury said Thursday after the Penguins practiced at Scotiabank Place.
Fleury, chosen first overall in the 2003 draft, tripped and was out of position to stop Ottawa's Andrej Meszaros from scoring 1:37 into the series opener.
``I saw it a couple of times on TV last night,'' Fleury said. ``It was a mistake. It's just something that happened.''
The 22-year-old allowed five more goals before coach Michel Therrien replaced him with Jocelyn Thibault during a stoppage in play with 9:32 remaining in the third.
``He gave up six goals but I'm glad the first game, his first playoff game in the NHL, is behind him,'' Therrien said. ``It's big for those kids. We're a team that's got a lot of attention all year long, first of all because of Sidney Crosby. Now the playoffs are another level.
``It's OK. We had a bad day. Now come on and let's go.''
Gilles Meloche, the Penguins' goaltending coach, played for the woebegone California Golden Seals at the outset of his 18-year career. He believes Fleury had little support from his teammates Wednesday.
``After a while you want to get out of there even if you're playing well,'' Meloche said. ``You don't like to get embarrassed out there. You might feel bad if you've given up bad goals but they were all good goals. We looked at the tapes today and we have no problem with his game at all. We were really bad as a team and he just wants to bounce back and I am confident he's going to bounce back. He's done it all year and his game's good right now.''
Crosby, who scored a late power-play goal, said that he and his teammates felt that Fleury kept the Penguins in the game until Ottawa scored three goals in the third.
``He stood on his head and we didn't give him a lot of help,'' Crosby said.
The Penguins as a team know they have to play better.
``I know he's capable of playing better,'' Therrien said of Crosby. ``He's got a lot of pressure for a 19 year old, there's no question. But he played pretty decent, he skated and made some nice plays. But like the rest of the team we weren't at our best.''
Thibault, who debuted as a 19 year old with Quebec after the Nordiques chose him 10th overall in 1993, talked with Fleury after the game and again during practice.
``It would be totally unfair to say it's Marc-Andre's fault,'' Thibault said. ``I thought he made a lot of good saves and he played well enough to give us a chance to stay in the game until the third period. After they scored the fourth and fifth goals it seemed like they were just buzzing around our net and the puck was going like a pinball. It was time to get Marc-Andre out of there and give him a little break so he can regroup and come back on Saturday.''
Fleury, one of 13 Penguins who made their playoff debut Wednesday, watched some of the other playoff games with his teammates after the loss.
``We talked about it and I think everybody's ready to start over again,'' Fleury said. ``You can never be happy when you've given up six goals. I still had some good saves, I thought, in the game and I feel confident going into the next one.''
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