Game No. 73 for the Golden Knights was well on its way to being another humdrum victory for the home team.
All that changed after 20 minutes.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was replaced after the first period Tuesday, and the concern over his health overshadowed the Knights’ 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks before an announced crowd of 18,214 at T-Mobile Arena.
“I haven’t heard nothing yet,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said when asked after the game for an update on Fleury’s status. “The trainers told me he’s not coming back tonight.”
Jonathan Marchessault scored for the first time since Feb. 23, and Cody Eakin and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also scored in the first period for the Knights (47-21-5, 99 points).
Tomas Tatar added a second-period goal, his second since being acquired from Detroit at the trade deadline.
Malcolm Subban made 21 saves in relief of Fleury, who earned his 402nd career victory to moved into 12th on the all-time wins list.
“I was just trying to take every save one by one,” Subban said. “The guys made it pretty easy for me. A lot of the shots were from the outside. There wasn’t too many hard shots so that made it easier.”
Fleury appeared to take a shot from Vancouver’s Brandon Sutter off his mask midway through the first period but remained in the game and finished the period with seven saves. He was not on the Knights’ bench to start the second period.
Fleury missed 25 games after suffering a concussion Oct. 13.
“I think it was more of a precaution,” Marchessault said.
“I just saw Subby starting to get ready so I realized that all right, (Fleury) was not going to come back,” Bellemare said. “At this time of the year, it’s better for him probably to just let (Subban) go in and relax the last two periods.”
Subban made his first appearance since Feb. 2 at Minnesota. He injured his hand during the pregame skate Feb. 8 at San Jose and was activated from the injured-reserve list last week.
Subban made 11 saves in the second, including two stops in the opening minute of the period. Sutter broke the shutout when he beat Subban from a tight angle 8:27 into the third period.
“That’s a tough job, second goalie like that,” Marchessault said. “He came in, looked great. He looked like he didn’t lose a beat. He was really good for us.”
The Knights maintained their eight-point lead over San Jose in the Pacific Division and sent Vancouver (25-39-9, 59 points) to its seventh consecutive loss.
The Knights scored on two of their first four shots and used their speed advantage to overwhelm the Canucks in the opening 20 minutes.
Marchessault opened the onslaught with his 23rd goal when he cut through the slot and one-timed a pass from William Karlsson past Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom at 3:56.
“The last few games I’ve had some good chances,” Marchessault said. “It’s a long season. The puck’s not always going to go in for you. But I’ve tried to do the right things at the right time and tonight I got rewarded.”
Eakin scored 57 seconds later to give the Knights a 2-0 lead, and Bellemare put the Knights up 3-0 with 32.9 seconds left in the first when he one-timed a feed from Tomas Nosek after some good work down low by the fourth line.
“I thought we were in control of the game all night tonight, and that’s real fun,” Gallant said. “And that’s the way we were playing when we were playing real good at home. … I just like the way we started the game.”