Year 2, Game 66: Golden Knights blank Ducks 3-0, win third straight

Mark Stone gets his first Vegas point, Alex Tuch ends a long goal drought, and the Knights have a winning streak again.

It’s been a while since the Vegas Golden Knights have been on a winning streak.

Say, since the Stone Age? Well, the winning ways for Vegas appear to be back.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 34 saves for his league-leading seventh shutout, and the Golden Knights won their third in a row, a 3-0 victory against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Friday, putting the finishing touches on an impressive back-to-back.

The Golden Knights (35-26-5) have won three straight since losing 10 of their past 14 (4-9-1), but more importantly are 3-0 since acquiring Mark Stone at the trade deadline. He recorded his first point as a Golden Knight on William Karlsson’s 19th goal of the season at 14:49 of the first period.

Stone has made the Golden Knights eons better since making the move from Ottawa. It might not be reflective in the point totals through three games, but Stone brings plenty to the table that Vegas has lacked. This power-play goal, for example, started because of a rare Golden Knights passing clinic that hasn’t been seen on a man-advantage for quite some time. The talk of that historically outstanding 5-on-3 against Dallas on Tuesday is no myth.

Then there are sequences like this, where 61 forces the turnover in the Vegas zone and springs Max Pacioretty for a breakaway.

Then there’s this, where his passing ability is on display once again. It’s also insane patience on Stone’s part.

The Pacioretty-Paul Stastny-Stone line has been stellar through three games. Not only has the collective Corsi been off the charts, but the trio has not allowed a goal at 5-on-5. Stone has put some life not just in the Golden Knights, but has made Pacioretty and Stastny as dangerous as advertised when they were brought to Vegas. You’re seeing the full potential of the Golden Knights’ three biggest acquisitions of the 2018-19 season.

Meanwhile, Alex Tuch has woken from his goalless slumber. His goal at 18:13 of the second period ended a 14-game drought. And it was a beauty.

As the game went on, you could sense a buzz in Tuch’s game each time he touched the puck. It’s a jump to his game that hasn’t been seen since, well, the last time he scored a goal 14 games ago. His lack of offense has been something that hasn’t been mentioned highly during Vegas’ struggles. But when he got on the board tonight, it was the Tuch from the first 40 games of the season where he appeared headed for superstardom.

Tuch is still 22. That stretch should serve as a reminder that he’s still that. If this is the game to get him going, it’s coming at the right time as he flanks a new-look third line that definitely needs a scoring punch. He provided that on Friday.

Speaking of the third line, Cody Eakin put the finishing touches with an empty-net goal at 19:39 of the third to ice it and push the Golden Knights to 4-0 against the Ducks this year. All of those wins have come with Fleury in net. This, on the heels of his 55th career shutout in the NHL, two of his seven this season have come against Anaheim. And he’s allowed only five goals in five career games (4-1-0) as the Golden Knights’ goaltender. He has Anaheim’s number.

Another thing we need to talk about: Fleury has allowed one goal in his past two starts since the trade deadline, and that goal shouldn’t have counted. This is after he allowed 21 goals in his previous five starts, all losses in that stretch. Albeit, the last two games came against a Jamie Benn-less Dallas team and an Anaheim squad that already had trouble scoring goals as constructed, but it’s a good sign to see Fleury put up back-to-back stellar outings for the first time in what seems like forever. Keep an eye on Fleury’s workload over these next 16 games, especially with Sunday’s matinee against Vancouver.

Speaking of Anaheim, that’s five straight losses. With the Western Conference wild card race finally taking form, it looks safe to say the Ducks are no longer in the running, which makes me extremely sad. John Gibson had 31 saves in the loss. Poor Gibson. Seriously.

Vegas moves to eight points ahead of the idle Arizona Coyotes for third place in the Pacific Division, but the Coyotes have two games in hand. The Coyotes are soon going to grab strangers off the street to play for them, as Derek Stepan could miss the rest of the regular season with a knee injury. The Golden Knights have managed to handle Arizona’s barrage of five straight wins while throwing their B-Team at Gila River Arena, but they’re not out of the woods yet. Arizona hosts Detroit on Saturday.

Don’t look now, but here come the Golden Knights.