It seems the more rubber Marc-Andre Fleury faces, the better he plays.
The veteran goaltender, making his 10th consecutive start with Robin Lehner sidelined with an upper-body injury, stopped 36 shots Wednesday as the Vegas Golden Knights defeated visiting Minnesota 5-1.
The Golden Knights are scheduled to open a two-game series at San Jose on Friday night. The teams are set to meet again Saturday.
“The more you play, you just go out and play and not think as much,” said Fleury, whose 11 victories this season rank third in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and Toronto’s Frederik Andersen. “You react to what’s happening in front of you. You just wait for the puck more. The play slows down a little bit, so it’s been good.”
Fleury, who surpassed Gump Worsley for 12th all-time among goaltenders with 861 games played, has limited opponents to two goals or fewer in 10 of his 14 appearances.
Fleury allowed a season-high four goals in a 5-4 overtime victory against the Wild on Monday, but he seemed to learn from his mistakes.
“Obviously, it didn’t go the way I wanted (Monday),” Fleury said. “It was good to know them a little bit, to know their tendencies. I don’t think you can plan too much. You just have to be patient.”
Mark Stone, Alex Tuch, Chandler Stephenson and William Karlsson each had a goal and an assist for Vegas, which maintained its one-point lead over St. Louis in the West Division. The Golden Knights, who are 14-4-1, have four games in hand on the Blues.
“We know that every game is huge, especially when every game is in the division,” said Tuch, who is second on the Golden Knights with nine goals, one behind Max Pacioretty. “I thought we put together a good 60 minutes.”
Tuch, who was selected No. 18 overall by Minnesota in the 2014 NHL draft, was traded to Vegas around the 2017 expansion draft so the Golden Knights would select forward Erik Haula from the Wild.
“It’s been the same since year one. Whenever we play those other teams, we have that chip on our shoulder,” Tuch said. “I like playing against the Wild. It’s been a lot of fun beating them, that’s for sure.”
The Sharks dropped to 1-3-0 on their current seven-game homestand with a 4-0 loss against Colorado on Wednesday. They couldn’t contain the Avalanche’s top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, which combined for nine points.
The Sharks had scored six goals in each of their previous two games before being blanked by Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer.
“Just couldn’t get anything going,” San Jose coach Bob Boughner said. “The second goal really took the wind out of our sails. When you don’t make that team defend, they have a lot of juice on offense.”
Martin Jones made 34 saves for the Sharks, who dropped to 8-10-2.
“We want to get over that .500 mark,” San Jose defenseman Mario Ferraro said. “We have to stack up some wins, but we don’t want to get frustrated with each other. With these (two-game series), it’s tougher to win.”
–Field Level Media