DETROIT — With Reilly Smith unavailable because of injury, the message was clear to the Golden Knights — everyone must raise their game to make up for the loss of the team’s second-leading scorer.
Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin certainly got the memo. They scored two goals apiece, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 28 shots he faced in a 4-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena.
“We played really well in the D zone,” said Tuch, who scored his 12th and 13th goals, including the game’s first goal 2:24 in when he beat Jimmy Howard to the glove side. “I thought we played well as a line. We were fast and forechecked hard and forced some turnovers.
“Smitty’s a key player for us, and he’s hard to replace. But I thought (Tomas) Tatar did well on that line, and I thought all 20 guys were ready to play.”
The Knights (43-19-5, 91 points) tied the NHL record for most road victories by an expansion team with 19. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim won 19 games in their inaugural season in 1993-94. The Knights also improved to 2-1 on their five-game trip, which continues Saturday in Buffalo and ends Monday in Philadelphia.
They set the record without Smith, who suffered an upper-body injury Tuesday against Columbus and is listed as day to day.
“I think our guys take a lot of pride in that,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said of the road record. “It’s always tough to win on the road, but some of our best wins have come on the road. For us to have 19 wins on the road at this time, it’s great.”
The victory was the 398th of Fleury’s career and the 47th shutout. He’s 23-9-3 with three shutouts this season.
“The forwards came back and blocked shots, and the D got a lot of sticks in the lane, and there wasn’t as many crisscross passes,” Fleury said. “(Smith’s) not an easy guy to replace. He does a lot of things offensively and defensively.”
With Fleury stonewalling the Red Wings, the Knights scored three times in the second period. Eakin scored a short-handed goal after the Red Wings were caught changing lines on the power play while Tatar was off for interference. William Karlsson poked it ahead to Eakin, who put it low to the blocker side for a 2-0 lead at 10:40.
Eakin scored his second goal and ninth this season at 17:48, going over Howard’s shoulder with a wrist shot from the slot to make it 3-0. Tuch followed 50 seconds later with his 13th this season, wristing a shot from the slot before Howard could react.
“It’s nice to contribute,” Eakin said. “I was looking to take it to the net, and I thought we didn’t really force anything. We just let it unfold and turn it toward us.
“We tried to play consistent. Flower stood on his head when we needed him, and we capitalized when we had to.”
Fleury stopped Darren Helm from close range on back-to-back shots with about five minutes left in the second period, then denied Justin Abdelkader from in front of the crease 5:45 into the third period.
“I liked the one I had in the third better,” Fleury said of the stop on Abdelkader. “That was a good one.”
1. Covering for Smith. Whether it was blocking shots, making good passes out of the defensive zone, forechecking well and getting the puck past Jimmy Howard, all four of the Knights’ lines contributed to the win. The third line of Cody Eakin, Alex Tuch and Ryan Carpenter scored the four goals, but the other lines played well and helped Marc-Andre Fleury preserve his third shutout this season.
2. Tatar’s return. Tomas Tatar didn’t register a point in his return to Detroit. He took Reilly Smith’s place on the first line with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault and took three shots while playing 15:46 in 19 shifts. He would have played more had he not taken two penalties, one in the second period for interference and another in the third for hooking. But he also drew a penalty in the third on Jonathan Ericsson.
3. Soft ice
The Golden Knights made their first appearance at Little Caesars Arena and said they loved the building and the spacious locker room. But they thought the ice was too soft, and they’re not the only players who have complained. The Red Wings themselves have been unhappy with the quality of the ice.
Steve Carp Review-Journal