The Vegas Golden Knights won the first of four straight meetings against the Colorado Avalanche with a 1-0 victory Sunday afternoon at T-Mobile Arena.
The Knights are now 10-2-1 on the season and have won five out of their last six games.
It was Marc-Andre Fleury’s fourth straight start, third in the last four days and second this weekend, but he stopped every shot he faced for his second shutout of the year.
Max Pacioretty scored the only goal of the game early in the second period.
Pacioretty collected a stretch pass from Zach Whitecloud and let his release take care of the rest. The marker adds to his team-leading goal total of seven, though it’s his first of the month.
It was a hard-fought game by two strong teams and had a playoff atmosphere.
The Knights had some chances on the power play early, but a combination of Philipp Grubauer and the post kept Pacioretty and Vegas off the board.
However, Pacioretty broke through less than two minutes into the second period, but it was mostly Colorado the rest of the way.
Vegas lost the possession battle in each period. At 5-on-5, Vegas finished the game with a Corsi For percentage of 43.01, a 40.82 percent shot share, 46.67 percent scoring chance share, 47.06 high-danger Corsi share and a 39.69 percent expected goal share.
But that’s a testament to the play of Fleury.
He was particularly strong in the third period when Colorado really poured on the pressure.
Biggest stop of the night from Fleury.#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/E8NJy7KGgZ— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) February 15, 2021
At all strengths, the Avs led in Corsi (24-14), shots (10-6) and scoring chances (12-6) in the final frame, forcing Fleury to come up with many key saves. He came through in the chaotic scrambles and the close calls and made a particularly crucial stop on none other than Pierre Edouard-Bellemare late in the third.
https://t.co/Djad9MQVTm pic.twitter.com/LMJm6AT65D— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) February 15, 2021
In the end, he stopped 30 of 30 shots.
Despite the play at 5-on-5, it was a good response from the blue line after an unconvincing performance yesterday against San Jose. Notably, it was hands down Alex Pietrangelo’s best game as a Golden Knight.
He lost the Corsi and shots battle but finished with a 58.31 expected goal share, 57.89 scoring chance share, 77.78 percent high-danger Corsi share, and he was a key part of shutting down Nathan MacKinnon. He was on the ice for 16:28 of MacKinnon’s 19:18 of ice time at 5-on-5 and made a strong stick play to break up a cross-ice pass in the final minute of the game.
Whitecloud also had an especially strong game. Not only did he set up the game-winner, but he was one of six skaters who finished with a Corsi For percentage over 50 (52.63). He also put his skill on display and is playing with a lot of confidence.
Zach Whitecloud, and the art of the dangle.#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/tmcJZoTzJH— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) February 15, 2021
It was Colorado’s first game in nearly two weeks, which the Avs demonstrated by taking a too-many-men penalty just 42 seconds into the game. The Knights went 0-for-3 on the power play a day after going 3-for-5, though Colorado has an elite penalty kill.
Plus, Grubauer is no slouch; he’s 7-3-0 with a 1.61 goals-against average and .937 save percentage.
Even so, Fleury was the difference in this game. He hasn’t given up more than one goal in three straight starts.
But despite some early rust, the Avs outplayed Vegas at even strength. It was Vegas’ third game in four days, but as Pacioretty stressed after the game, the Knights need to be better at 5-on-5 and have to find ways to generate more offensive opportunities.
It was Vegas’ biggest test of the season, and thanks to Fleury, the Knights came out on top. However, it will be a demanding series.
These teams will square off once again Tuesday night to do it all over again.