DALLAS — “When I play, I expect to save them all.”
On a cool October night in Texas, Marc-André Fleury nearly did just that, stopping 45 of 46 Dallas Stars shots.
Head coach Gerard Gallant did not hold back in his praise of the veteran netminder. “Fleury stole that hockey game for us,” said the 54-year-old skipper. “He was outstanding, the first star of the game, and made some great saves for us.”
Only one puck got past Fleury, a deftly tipped power play tally off the stick of Tyler Seguin near the end of the second period. Apart from that, Fleury kept the net empty all night long in the face of intense pressure from the Stars’ talented forwards corps.
“It was really more of a 5-4 hockey game,” said Gallant. “The goaltenders were excellent at both ends.”
With respect to Ben Bishop — and later, following an injury, Kari Lehtonen — Fleury ruled the day, single-handedly keeping Vegas in the contest despite a furious onslaught in the second period:
“That was a while ago,” Fleury reflected. “I’ve got more experience, I’ve played a lot of games since then.” He laughed. “Not as much movement as I used to have, not as much diving around.”
However, there was a special wrinkle to tonight’s proceedings.
“That game we lost, today we won. It’s a much better feeling,” said Fleury.
This may have been his 376th career victory, but it seems safe to say that this one ranks higher than most of the others. Acutely aware of the horrors from the previous weekend in Las Vegas, Fleury noted: “It’s not a happy ending yet because a lot of people are still suffering. But for us to be out there, winning the first game, I think the guys worked hard all game to get that win. Hopefully that makes the people in Vegas proud of us.”
Barring any strange circumstance, Fleury will be back in net for the home opener against Arizona on Tuesday, October 10th. Sounds like a perfect time for the people of Vegas to show their pride in this ragtag group that overcame significant odds — not to mention a 56-31 shot attempt differential at 5-on-5 in favor of Dallas — in order to walk out of the American Airlines Center with their first notch in the win column.