It only took a few months for Marc-Andre Fleury to get that shutout in a Vegas Golden Knights jersey, and he did it against a team he’s very familiar with. Vegas blanked the Washington Capitals 3-0 on Saturday for its fourth straight win and Fleury’s third straight since returning to the lineup.
He's the second Golden Knights goaltender to do it, joining Oscar Dansk.
Maybe it's because this was a whole team effort. Three lines scored, with goals from Alex Tuch, Oscar Lindberg, and William Karlsson. All goals came in the first 15 minutes, with Karlsson's coming last at 14:55, his 16th of the year and first since Dec. 8.
The scoring burst to kick things off took the wind out of the sails of the already tired Capitals early. From there on, it looked to be clear sailing. Thank the Arizona Coyotes for that fatigue due to that 3-2 overtime win Friday night.
The Golden Knights opened up scoring on this tuck-in from Tuch:
Great defensive play by Eakin to get this puppy goin'. pic.twitter.com/3GPar33eJU— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 24, 2017
It's a great play by the whole line. Cody Eakin saves the puck back before it exits the zone. He feeds Brendan Leipsic, who gets denied by Braden Holtby because of course Leipsic gets denied. Tuch finishes it, scoring off the rebound. That's why high-danger chances and net-front traffic are so important.
Then, the fourth line got in on the action, with another whole-line effort.
Lindberg with his seventh of the season. pic.twitter.com/HUxU9RiR3v— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 24, 2017
Tomas Nosek gets the zone-entry, sliding in behind the defense. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare does his part by driving to the net and drawing the defenseman. That leaves both Lindberg and Nate Schmidt open on the other side, Lindberg gets it, and he scores. The fourth line finally converts on chances they've been getting all season.
Finally, Karlsson, after getting left all alone on a drive to the net, gets left all alone again:
THIS. TEAM. IS. SO. MUCH. FUN. pic.twitter.com/YEW1wy6Pjh— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 24, 2017
This is the result of perfect passing in the offensive zone. Jonathan Marchessault leaves it for Reilly Smith, who finds Karlsson all alone on the side of the net. He gets a wide-open look and throws it into the meshing. Again, this is the ideal scenario when it comes to offensive attacks.
The defensive side of the puck wasn't bad either. Of course, the shutout kind of indicates that. With more than six minutes of the penalty kill (Eakin's holding call came with 46 seconds left), the Golden Knights looked excellent shorthanded. They allowed only two shots for the Capitals power play, and a few other missed chances.
Giving credit where credit is due, the leaders in shorthanded minutes were Bellemare, Nosek, Schmidt, and Brayden McNabb. They did an excellent job, and as the focus shifted to defense, those defensive-minded Knights became more important.
That's how the Knights were able to settle into a protect-the-lead mentality and actually do so. Vegas only generated 11 shots in the final 40 minutes, allowing Washington 17. But they withstood, and they showed that they can be dominant (17-9 shot differential in the first period) and then ease off and still win.
It's incredible to look at this team and watch what George McPhee and Gerard Gallant have been able to do. This was the ultimate revenge game for McPhee, and Schmidt shouldn't be angry with his performance either.
The Golden Knights face the Anaheim Ducks after the winter break as they start another California road-trip.