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Golden Grades: Marc-Andre Fleury spectacular again in Golden Knights victory over Wild

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It must be Groundhog Day, because the Vegas Golden Knights figured out how to beat the Minnesota Wild.

Ten goals in two games, two wins in completely different fashion, but all important in the same. The Golden Knights won 5-1 on Wednesday and widened their points percentage cushion on Minnesota with a game in hand.

“Come in here on a six-game winning streak, real good record. You can see why,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “I thought we bent but didn’t break in some key moments. We haven’t had a good record against this team historically, but to come in and get four points was a big moment for our group.”

The Golden Knights are now a whopping 4-6-0 against Minnesota and will see them twice more next week in St. Paul. More importantly, the Golden Knights are nearing the 30-point plateau at the 20-game mark, and are third in the league in points percentage behind Tampa Bay and Toronto.

Less than 48 hours after rallying from two goals down to win in overtime, the Golden Knights put a complete 60 minutes together for their most dominant win against the Wild.

“WIth a team with speed, you want to take their time and space away as much as you can,” said forward Chandler Stephenson. “Second period last game was a lesson learned, and they took it to us. We just wanted to weather the storm, especially in the third.”

On to the grades.

OFFENSE: B

The lines went back to normal, and the big-boy names came to play

Four players had a goal and an assist, which included Mark Stone and Alex Tuch, in this victory. Stone dipped to a sub-par (kidding) two-point night after five helpers on Monday.

Max Pacioretty could’ve been on the board at least once had Cam Talbot not been a thief in the night on multiple occasions.

The game slowed in the second period, as expected when facing the Wild. Even with their newfound ability to score, Minnesota can still have a team playing like they’re trekking through mud.

Outside of Tuch’s goal 2:03 into the game, the third line was stagnant (6-14) and 15.72 expected goals percentage, which included Tuch’s goal.

The Golden Knights out-attempted Minnesota 19-10 in the second period, but none were really dangerous outside of Jonathan Marchessault’s goal at 5:03.

Overall, it was a solid night that turned into an eruption in the third. Considering how much the Golden Knights have struggled to even eclipse two goals against the Wild, this is a vast improvement.

To win two games in different fashions says a lot on how far the Golden Knights have come against the Wild. We’ll revisit this on Monday when the series shifts to St. Paul.

DEFENSE: B+

It was a solid night for the blueliners.

The cheat-code combo (Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore) were on the ice for 17 attempts while only allowing 10, while giving up 0.27 expected goals. The two workhorses (Theodore led in ice time at 25:45, Pietrangelo at 25:22) have been together for four games, each of them wins. Surely there’s a coincidence.

Alec Martinez and Zach Whitecloud have been the quiet pair, but that’s a good thing. They’re not going to wow offensively together, but they’ll control possession (14-8) fairly well. The only concern was them allowing three high-danger chances while allowing 0.65 goals allowed.

Nic Hague had a solid two-assist night, but he and Dylan Coghlan fizzled out in the final 40 minutes. The third pair was strong behind the net, playing the puck well in the first period. The duo ended by seeing 10 attempts go by the wayside.

All signs continue to point to Coghlan being the odd-man out when Brayden McNabb returns to the lineup. After being benched in the third period Monday and playing a blue-line worst 12:33 on Wednesday, it may be time to give the young Coghlan a break.

GOALTENDING: A+

We’re at the point that writing anything about Marc-Andre Fleury needs to be recycled and re-used.

Fleury was spectacular yet again, making a season-high 36 saves in his 10th consecutive start, and was one fluke goal by Marcus Foligno away from another shutout.

It’s become routine at this point for Fleury to make the impossible seem possible. After allowing a season-high four goals Monday, Fleury stopped all but one of the 14 high-danger chances he saw.

“The more you play, you just go out and play and not think as much,” Fleury said. “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’s 1.71 GAA and .939 save percentage are still slightly off the pace set by Andrei Vasilevskiy, but there’s no doubt the 36-year-old Fleury continues putting up Vezina-like numbers. There’s really nothing else to say at this point, other than Fleury continues defying the laws of physics.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • The Golden Knights will be off Thursday and travel to San Jose for their back-to-back this weekend. Vegas will play six games in nine days, all on the road, with two weekend back-to-backs. Whatever is going on with Robin Lehner better be addressed soon, because Fleury is going to need a break at some point. Considering there’s still no update as of Wednesday, Oscar Dansk might get a look this weekend.
  • Tomas Nosek still doesn’t look up to game speed, and that’s to no fault of his own. While admirable he’s dealt with COVID and a newborn in a span of three weeks, Nosek isn’t there yet. For as much as DeBoer relies on the fourth line to light a spark, it may require Nicolas Roy coming back into the lineup this weekend.
  • Kirill Kaprizov is so fun to watch, and I can’t wait to see his progression this season.
  • The Wild’s Reverse Retro sweaters need to be a permanent thing. Color scheme, look, everything.
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Danny Webster has covered the Vegas Golden Knights since their inaugural season. A graduate from the Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies at UNLV, Danny has written about the Golden Knights for NHL.com and SB Nation. He is now the lead reporter covering this young franchise for Vegas Hockey Now. Follow him on Twitter @DannyWebster21.

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[…] Ten goals in two games, two wins in completely different fashion, but all important in the same. The Golden Knights won 5-1 on Wednesday and widened their points percentage cushion on Minnesota with a game in hand. (Vegas Hockey Now) […]

[…] Here are our Golden Grades from last night’s 5-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, and it’s hard not to keep bringing up the play of Marc-Andre Fleury. (VegasHockeyNow) […]

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