Marc-Andre Fleury lost a goaltending duel to Cam Talbot in the Vegas Golden Knights’ 1-0 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup First Round at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday.
Fleury did not allow a goal until a shot by forward Joel Eriksson Ek deflected off Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez in front and changed direction at 3:20 of overtime. Fleury made 29 saves, some spectacular.
Talbot made 42 saves for the shutout.
“It’s disappointing we couldn’t get the win, couldn’t score one goal for him,” Golden Knights captain Mark Stone said of Fleury. “There were times where I think we were trying to cheat a little bit of offense because we were getting a little bit frustrated, and that’s on us.
“But [Fleury] did a great job to kind of bail us out in the third period. They had some really good chances to end it before they did. But I don’t really expect any different. He plays great for us every night.”
Fleury lost the No. 1 job to Robin Lehner in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
But Fleury started over Lehner on Sunday after going 26-10-0 in the regular season. His 1.98 goals-against average was the lowest of his 17-season NHL career; his .928 save percentage was the highest. His six shutouts rank third in the League.
Fleury and Lehner shared the William M. Jennings Trophy after Vegas allowed the fewest goals-against this season (124). Lehner went 13-4-2 with a 2.29 GAA, a .913 save percentage and one shutout.
“I think it was an easy decision,” Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. “When you look at our season, I thought both goaltenders were excellent, but [Fleury] really carried us during some of the tougher periods and really was consistent all season and was great down the stretch too.
“Fairly easy decision and nice luxury to have two guys like we have.”
Fleury had little work in the first period, when Vegas outshot Minnesota 19-5.
“Our guys had the puck a lot in the first,” Fleury said. “It was quiet on my side. I was just cheering for them, trying to keep in the game.”
But Fleury had to make a difference when the shots were almost even in the second and third, Minnesota leading 22-21 combined.
In the second, Fleury stopped forward Ryan Hartman after forward Kirill Kaprizov set up Hartman with a saucer pass from behind the net. Fleury made a windmill glove save on forward Nick Bjugstad.
In the third, Fleury made the save of the night, lunging to his right to rob Kaprizov.
“I just tried to push as quick as I could, and I just got a piece on the finger,” Fleury said. “It was close, but it was a nice feeling to get that one.”
Later in the third, Fleury made back-to-back windmill glove saves on Hartman and forward Kevin Fiala, deflecting the puck on the Hartman shot and catching it on the Fiala shot.
“So watching [Fleury] doing full windmills on glove saves reminds me of playing street hockey with the much younger kids on my street and showing off just because I could,” tweeted Martin Biron, an NHL goalie from 1995-2014.
Fleury stopped Hartman on the rush with 1:50 remaining in the third period, holding his ground, absorbing the puck and helping to force overtime.
The Golden Knights need to solve Talbot and provide goal support in Game 2 here Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS, ATTSN-RM, BSN, BSWI+).
“They got their chances towards the second half of the game, but I don’t know,” Stone said. “Got to find ways to score, and it’s not just finding those dirty areas. You’ve got to find loose pucks. You’ve got to make plays. You can’t just rely on taking 40, 45 shots. When you get the Grade As, you’ve got to bear down and score on them, and we had lots of those.”