Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer has talked about how, sometimes, you need ugly wins to measure the mark of your team.
That stands true in a 1-0 game. William Karlsson scored with 42.7 seconds left to give Vegas a victory against the Arizona Coyotes, its fifth in six games to start the season.
Let’s hand out some grades for this weird game.
After scoring nine goals through two games at T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights ran into a settled Darcy Kuemper in his home barn. Vegas had 18 shots through two periods, but credit the Coyotes for keeping the bulk of those attempts to the outside.
While understanding the clamoring for Cody Glass to be a mainstay in the lineup, the Golden Knights might have something with this third line of Alex Tuch, Nicolas Roy and Keegan Kolesar. The trio combined for 11 shots and only allowed two. Kolesar doesn’t move the needle from a name factor, but when he’s been on that line, 55 has stood out.
Vegas got going in the third period and peppered Kuemper up close. The Knights had a couple of chances in the third from the Roy line — one in particular where Roy’s deflection from Nicolas Hague went wide of the net at 5:25 of the third — but finally cashed in on Karlsson’s winning goal.
Even if it might’ve, could’ve, possibly been icing, but that’s another discussion for another day.
It was a night-and-day effort from the Golden Knights defensively after allowing five goals on Friday.
The first period alone was worthy of a gold star, allowing four shots on goal while blocking four.
That’s one of the signs of how well the Golden Knights have adjusted. Think back to the season opener against Anaheim; they allowed the two first-period goals and held the Ducks scoreless the rest of the way.
Giving up those two goals by Max Comtois kickstarted a 220-minute stretch of only five goals allowed. The adjustments DeBoer and his staff have made on the fly in a short amount of time is to be commended.
All three pairs played well, but notably the third of Zach Whitecloud (15:18 TOI) and Hague (15:09). The two young blueliners not only played well in their own zone, but got into the rush aplenty and made some plays. Those two turning in a complete 200-foot effort on a nightly basis will round out this defense core more than we initially thought.
Not going to slight Marc-Andre Fleury for only seeing 16 shots. He came up big when needed, and has been stellar (3-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .951 save percentage).
It was the 62nd shutout of Fleury’s career. His 469th win puts him 15 behind Ed Belfour for fourth place all-time, and he’s going to make a serious charge for that should he continue this pace.
Fleury didn’t see a lot of dangerous chances until the second half of the game. Then came his former buddy Phil Kessel walking in on him at 3:06 of the third.
It’s a small sample size and the quality of competition hasn’t given us a clear indication yet, but committing $12 million to a goaltending duo has proven to be a worthwhile investment for the Golden Knights in their 5-1-0 start.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
The penalty kill continues to be the Golden Knights’ biggest strength, allowing one shot on two Arizona power plays. For that alone, this would be a high mark. Vegas now has the ninth best PK unit in the league (85 percent). The power play, however, continues to be an anomaly. Yes, Arizona’s PK is always top notch. To be 2-for-20 on the season, however, is a headscratcher.
Fortunately the Golden Knights will face a horrid St. Louis Blues PK unit on Tuesday, the fifth worst team in the league shorthanded (65.4 percent). If that doesn’t produce some power-play goals, there might need to be a come-to-Jesus meeting.
Nevertheless, the Golden Knights got the job done and took three of four against the Coyotes. These teams will not meet again until April 9. May we all be blessed for that.
Danny Webster is the newest columnist and reporter for Vegas Hockey Now. He is the Golden Knights beat writer for NHL dot com and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch him on Twitter @DannyWebster21
WATCH: Marc-Andre Fleury dazzles yet again in Golden Knights victory
It seems like the only player that can surprise Marc-Andre Fleury might be Marc-Andre Fleury.
When you win 474 games in the NHL, it almost comes naturally.
Fleury made 34 saves Monday, including a couple of highlight-reel worthy stops, to propel the Vegas Golden Knights to a 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.
“It’s a team game, and the guys have done a great job blocking shots and not giving them too much,” Fleury said. “Obviously it’s a great effort by the guys in front of me.”
That quote was mainly about the penalty kill, but it’s just as potent at 5-on-5. The Golden Knights blocked 17 shots Monday and were out-attempted 57-45.
It’s another testament to how good Fleury has been.
Two of Fleury’s league-leading three shutouts came in this four-game set against the Avalanche. Barring catastrophic happenings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this will be a second-round matchup more likely than not.
Fresh off back-to-back 3-2 losses to Colorado, coach Pete DeBoer put the lines in the blender. Alex Tuch was moved to the top line and scored two goals, and Jonathan Marchessault moved to the third line and scored his fifth goal in nine games.
Fleury made his eighth consecutive start, seventh with Robin Lehner rehabbing from an upper-body injury. No one has made more starts than Fleury since Feb. 9 (7), and no one has a lower goals-against average (1.73) and a higher save percentage (.941) than the 36-year-old three-time Stanley Cup champion.
Fleury’s next victory will be his 100th with the Golden Knights. It’s crazy to think he could be any better than the expansion season, but he’s rivaling that with this hot start to this season
“I honestly think the first year, he was impeccable,” Marchessault said. “That’s as good I’ve seen him. He’s been unbelievable. He’s been a great leader for everybody. We want to battle for him because he battles for us. It’s been a treat to see him do so well.”
Performing in big games has been the norm since Fleury was picked by Vegas in the expansion draft. Monday was another example of that, shutting down the potent Colorado offense in the most important game this season.
The Golden Knights leave Denver with a much-needed split and maintain first place in the West Division. Their goaltender was at the forefront of that yet again.
Now to the fun stuff.
Think of this as difficulty levels in a video game. Here’s easy, which isn’t as close to easy as one would think it would be.
Now, here’s medium with borderline hard, because why in the world is Fleury channeling his inner infielder and making a play on the ground ball? The man DOES NOT HAVE HIS STICK WHILE DIVING TO MAKE THE STOP.
Here’s the expert difficulty, which might not be, because this is the 3,000th time Fleury has made a double-pad stack in his career. But given this came in a 0-0 game, the degree of difficulty amplifies.
“I think maybe because I was deeper I could get there a little quicker and not have to cover as much distance to get there,” Fleury said. “It gave me a little more time to react and throw the pad in the air.”
Speaking of video game difficulty, we need to talk about this.
It’d be easy to say this is video game-like stuff, but when’s the last time your goalie in NHL 21 could actually do this against the AI?
It was this kind of night for Fleury, who once again did what he needed to do, and then some. He continues to put on a show, but he’s doing it in winning ways.
“It’s as good as I’ve seen him play,” DeBoer said. “For me, he’s been dialed in right since training camp. He’s consistently been our best player.”
Tuch Scores Twice; Vintage Marc-Andre Fleury Blanks Avalanche 3-0
Alex Tuch scored the first two goals of the game for the Vegas Golden Knights and Marc-Andre Fleury turned in a vintage performance making 34 saves to shut out the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 on Monday night.
With the win, Vegas earns a split in the four-game series between the two clubs and improves to 11-4-1 on the season. The Avalanche drop to 9-5-1 and lose on home ice for only the second time this season.
Fleury recorded his third shutout of the young season with 34 saves, 15 coming in the third period as he shut down the Avalanche attack. Not only did Fleury make several top-quality stops, but also received 17 blocks to help secure the win.
Tuch got the Golden Knights off and running with a power play goal off the rush at 2:53 of the second period. Just over three minutes later he banked a shot in off the stick of Avs defender Bowen Byram for the second straight game to make it 2-0.
Jonathan Marchessault scored the third goal for Vegas, beating Philipp Grubauer five-hole to wrap the scoring.
- William Karlsson recorded two assists in the game, the second time in three outings he has done that.
- Fleury’s shutout was his 64th of his career, tying him with Henrik Lundqvist for 16th all-time.
- It was also Marc-Andre Fleury’s 99th win in a Vegas Golden Knights uniform.
- Fleury is the only goalie to blank the Avs this season and has already done it twice.
- These two teams will not see each other again until March 25 for a two-game set.
Golden Knights can’t recover against Avalanche in wild day at Lake Tahoe
The game began with snowy mountain tops, crisp green trees, and a picturesque lake in the background.
It ended nearly 12 hours later in a blanket of darkness.
Hockey was played at a rink at Lake Tahoe, and the Vegas Golden Knights were a part of it. Whether they anticipated it being interrupted by this giant thing in the sky called the sun is another story.
It took 10 hours, 37 minutes for the hockey happenings to cease at Lake Tahoe, but the Golden Knights dropped their second consecutive game to the Colorado Avalanche, 3-2, on Saturday.
“It was a strange day,” said Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer.
That’s putting it mildly.
The first outdoor game of this condensed season was postponed due to poor ice conditions. There was a 71-minute period during the first intermission — from the time the period ended, to when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement — where there was serious unknown in the air.
Play resumed at 9 p.m. after a near-seven-hour intermission. The NHL needed to wait until nighttime, away from the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada and bluest lake, to continue.
A giant fireball in the sky — not COVID-19 — postponed the first marquee regular-season event in Golden Knights history.
The Golden Knights treated the first period like it was a morning skate. They went back to the hotel and went about business as if they were preparing for a normal game night.
“Personally, I didn’t have my afternoon nap like I usually would for a 7 o’clock game,” said forward Alex Tuch. “It was probably because of the pre-workout and the coffees in me. You want to keep the same routine going into a game, no matter two periods, three periods, or five periods.”
The Avalanche took full advantage of the soft ice in the first period. Samuel Girard, fresh off of COVID protocol, scored 2:58 in to give Colorado a 1-0 lead. It wasn’t anything special; no deflection, no crashing the net. It was a bouncing puck that Marc-Andre Fleury had trouble corralling.
Colorado makes its money with skating and speed. Given the ice conditions, that played into the Avs’ favor. They outshot Vegas 17-8 in the first period and out-attempted the Golden Knights 12-2 in the first nine minutes.
Both teams felt they could’ve continued.
“They did the best they could,” said defenseman Alec Martinez, “just the sun was beating down on it too much.”
The elements in this game are tailor-made for those who can skate and do it better than most.
That’s the perfect setting for Nathan MacKinnon.
It took less than four minutes — from Martinez’s tying goal at 7:37 of the second — for MacKinnon to leave his mark.
During a 4-on-4, MacKinnon took the puck away from Mark Stone, tossed it to Devon Toews, and gathered it back himself. MacKinnon, equipped with his gazelle-like skating abilities, sprinted down the right side with Alex Pietrangelo in front. MacKinnon ripped a wrist shot from the right circle and beat Fleury far side over his right shoulder for a 2-1 lead at 11:18.
What’s Pietrangelo thinking as Colorado’s 29 is coming down the ice? “Oh boy.”
Fleury had another valiant effort in his sixth consecutive start, making 36 saves. The 39 shots he saw were the most the Golden Knights have allowed this season, including the 17 from the first period.
Vegas fell behind the 8-ball early because of Colorado’s speed and skating ability. While the Golden Knights have, for all intents and purposes, played Colorado evenly enough to lose back-to-back one-goal games, it wouldn’t be that way had it not been for Fleury’s performance.
Despite playing a better 40 minutes, the Golden Knights couldn’t figure out Philipp Grubauer (27 saves) for a third consecutive game.
“I didn’t like how we played,” DeBoer said. “I thought we reset and played two pretty hard periods. We were chasing the game right from the drop of the puck this morning.”
It’s more than fair to call the first period a squash given the hoopla.
As mentioned Thursday, the beauty of Lake Tahoe would not mask the important two points on the line. The first period wound up being the Achilles’ heel, no matter the conditions.
The Golden Knights have an opportunity to split this series and maintain their hold at the top of the West Division. The series shifts to Ball Arena in Denver on Monday.
It’s an experience the Golden Knights have longed for and will never forget, in more ways than one.
“It was a little nerve-racking at first, but it was exciting,” said forward Alex Tuch. “It wasn’t our best start, but I had a lot of fun tonight, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”