The Vegas Golden Knights, but more specifically Marc-Andre Fleury, held off the New York Rangers 2-1 to end the first half of the season on the highest note. The Golden Knights will now go to a five-day break (which will feel like an eternity).
Fleury made 28 of 29 saves, ending with a .966 save percentage. That's the kind of impact he's sustained since he came back. Whenever the Golden Knights get a win, it feels like the goaltender deserves at least second-star status, no matter how many goals they allowed. In this case, Fleury stayed under two for the fifth time in a row.
Ondrej Pavelec wasn't bad either, giving a .941 save percentage effort. Mika Zibanejad had the lone Rangers goal.
Meanwhile, both William Karlsson and James Neal scored for the Golden Knights. Each goal represented a turning point in the game. Neal's ended the first period in favor of the Knights and Karlsson's turned the tide back to the Knights in the third period.
The first line in general deserves credit tonight, as they continued to generate chances on net. The fourth line, renewed by the presence of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, also deserves a shoutout, as does the penalty kill, which continued its 22-for-22 streak, with two killed penalties.
The scoring opened with the Rangers getting the first goal of the night, the only puck that went past Fleury.
Not the start the Knights were looking for. Zibanejad makes it 1-0. pic.twitter.com/yLhtB6ad6G— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 8, 2018
That was part of a bad night for Brayden McNabb, and especially a bad period. McNabb's partial screen doesn't help on this goal, but it's a stoppable shot for Fleury. It's hard to be mad, since it's the only one Fleury didn't stop.
Luckily, before he left, Neal gave the gift of his 18th goal this season:
Neal forces Ryan McDonagh into a turnover, David Perron keeps the puck in the zone with a nice touch pass and Neal gets it above Pavelec and into the net.
Sometimes the second line gets forgotten with the power of the first and the capabilities of the fourth, but then they make a play like this.
That 1-1 tie would remain through the (relatively quiet) second and into the third. Fleury had to make saves like this to keep it that way:
Fleury's glove has been on point tonight. pic.twitter.com/VNthWR403R— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 8, 2018
Flower's in bloom, y'all. It's nice to have a backup and goaltender of the future like Malcolm Subban, but Fleury is his own kind of magic.
Then, 8:58 into the third period, the Golden Knights got the game-winning goal courtesy of the first line.
Perfect dish from Reilly Smith. pic.twitter.com/zzSsdLFcf9— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 8, 2018
Jonathan Marchessault drops it to Reilly Smith who skates forward, drawing the attention of Pavelec. Karlsson, the late man, goes unnoticed, leading to an open net. Smith passes behind him and finds Karlsson, who banks it in.
That's why the first line is one of the best in hockey. Even though Smith denies that they're telepaths. We all know that they are. It's not like they're the Sedin twins who grew up together. How else would they be this perfect?
The Knights would go on to survive the late rush of the Rangers, despite several last-minute defensive zone faceoffs. That's a credit to Fleury and a responsible defense. Vegas gets back on the right side of a 2-1 game.
The Golden Knights’ next game comes against the Edmonton Oilers in Las Vegas on Jan. 13.