By Bob Foltman
Tribune staff reporter
9:24 PM PST, December 8, 2002
Fleury scored his second goal in as many games Sunday and it was the game-winner as the Hawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 before an announced crowd of 11,647 at the United Center.
"I didn't have any expectations," Fleury said. "I'm just happy to be back and happy to be a part of the team. If I can contribute offensively, I think that's a bonus right now."
Fleury's goal came at the 15-minute-3-second mark of the third period and just after the end of a Hawks' power play.
Steve McCarthy scored his first goal of the season in the first period and Igor Korolev added an empty-netter.
The play on the winning goal seemed harmless enough when Fleury corraled a loose puck near the top of the faceoff circle to the left of Tampa Bay goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Fleury spun around and fired a shot that went over Khabibulin's left shoulder, hit the inside of the goal post and deflected off the opposite post, barely crossing the goal line.
"I just heard everyone yell and scream," Fleury said. "From the way I swung around, I didn't know where it was going. I just kind of threw it at the net."
Fleury wasn't as noticeable Sunday as he was in his first game Friday. He played 16:38 Sunday, less than the 18:39 he played Friday in his first game since the NHL lifted his suspension for violating the aftercare portion of the its substance-abuse policy.
"In the first period I felt that I was skating in quicksand," he said. "I felt as the game went on I got a lot stronger."
Sunday, Fleury was also more like the Fleury opponents have grown to hate giving a jab here and a poke there.
In the first period, he took what he thought was a high stick that went uncalled and spent most of the period yapping at referees Dennis LaRue and Dan O'Halloran. He had a welt on the side of his head as evidence.
"I wasted a lot of energy yelling at the ref," he said. "That's something that I have to work on."
But not something coach Brian Sutter wants to eliminate.
"He's a different personality," Sutter said. "He's hollering and screaming and our guys are looking around saying, 'What is this?' They haven't seen that before. He plays with some emotion."
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