PHILADELPHIA — Marc-Andre Fleury was awarded the second star of the game Saturday following a spectacular 26-save performance from the Golden Knights goaltender.
But his teammates knew better.
“He’s the reason why we won,” forward Ryan Carpenter said.
Fleury made a handful of tremendous stops, and Cody Eakin scored the lone goal for the Knights with 1:25 remaining in a much-needed 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers before an afternoon announced crowd of 19,067 at Wells Fargo Center.
The Knights paid back Philadelphia for a 5-2 loss at T-Mobile Arena on opening night and avoided the franchise’s first four-game losing streak during the regular season.
The win was their first in regulation since Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final and salvaged a 2-3 record from their longest road trip of the season.
“Fleury was outstanding, and he was the difference in the hockey game,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “He looked really good. He was confident. He was playing with the puck a lot behind the net and helping our (defensemen) on the breakouts, so he was real solid.”
Fleury entered with a record of 1-3 to go with a 3.94 goals-against average and .846 save percentage but hadn’t received much help from his teammates during his four appearances.
The Knights allowed a season-high 16 high-danger scoring chances against Philadelphia, according to NaturalStatTrick.com, and Fleury came up big each time to record his 49th career shutout.
“We gave up a few good chances early; he was there, kept us in the game and well into the third,” said Eakin, who was named the first star. “It’s nice to put one in for him there because he bailed us out a whole bunch.”
Fleury’s best save is up for debate.
He dived across his crease with 40 seconds remaining and reached up with his glove to deflect Claude Giroux’s blast from the left circle.
“They always make those plays cross-ice in front of your crease,” Fleury said. “They’re very good at it, and it makes it tough on the (defense) and the goalie. At the end there, I was in trouble, a little late, and I just threw everything I could over there at the end to get a piece.”
Fleury also robbed Giroux on a partial breakaway, trapping the shot along the ice with his glove with 4:06 left in the second period.
He peeked back into his net afterward to double check he had the puck.
“I felt it,” Fleury said with his trademark grin, “but I just wanted to make sure.”
In addition, Fleury made a sprawling save with his back on Jordan Weal in the first period and turned aside Scott Laughton’s short-handed breakaway attempt with a little more than five minutes remaining in the second.
“I think our play has been improving throughout the road trip,” Fleury said. “Nobody likes to lose, and we had to finish on a good note.”
On the winning goal, Eakin dived to poke the puck free from Flyers center Sean Couturier, and Carpenter scooped it up near the blue line.
Carpenter cut toward the net and was prepared to shoot until he saw Eakin uncovered and sent a pass across the slot. Eakin snapped a high shot past Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott (20 saves) for his second goal of the season.
“That game could have gone either way as we all saw it,” Gallant said. “Fortunately for us, we stuck with it and we got paid off at the end.”
1. Mix and match. Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant made in-game changes to his forward lines in an effort to spark his struggling offense. Tomas Hyka moved to the second line with Max Pacioretty and Erik Haula, and they created a good chance late that led to a power play. Tomas Nosek went to the third line.
2. Getting chippy. Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb smashed Oskar Lindblom into the glass midway through the third, igniting what had been a sleepy crowd at Wells Fargo Center. On the next shift, after McNabb was dumped by Flyers winger Dale Weise, Marc-Andre Fleury got in the action behind his net.
3. Well rested. The Knights were given an off-day Friday, but it didn’t do much for their start. Philadelphia owned a 10-5 advantage in shots on goal during the opening 20 minutes, and the Knights haven’t led in any game at the end of the first period.
David Schoen Review-Journal
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