NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Golden Knights’ success this inaugural season is due in large part to their goaltending. On nights when scoring is at a premium or the opposition is pressuring, whoever is in net has bailed them out.
On Tuesday, the tables were turned as Nashville rode the hot hand of its goalie, Juuse Saros, who turned back all 43 shots and made Kevin Fiala’s third-period goal stand up in the Predators’ 1-0 win in front of 17,150 at Bridgestone Arena.
It was only the second time the Knights have been blanked this year. Dallas posted a 3-0 shutout Nov. 28.
“It’s tough to lose a game like that,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said as his team began a four-game road trip with a loss and fell for the second consecutive time since returning from its league-mandated five-day break. “We got some good shots but give their goalie credit. He made some big stops.”
So did Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 26 of 27 shots with only Fiala’s roofed rebound of P.K. Subban’s slap shot eight minutes into the third period eluding him.
“It happens,” Fleury said. “It was a good game. I thought we were better as a team tonight, crisper, and had a lot of chances. But (Saros) played well for them.”
Jonathan Marchessault, who was credited with 10 of the Knights’ 43 shots, said it was frustrating to not solve Saros, who was called up from the Predators’ American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee.
“We have to give (Saros) credit but we have to be hungrier around the net,” Marchessault said. “We were good in the neutral zone but so were they. We’re going to find some teams that play well like that so we have to find a way to overcome that.”
Saros said: “I’m just trying to play my own game, not try to think too much and to go out there and have fun and do the best I can. It’s a big win for us and it shows character, especially when we’ve had a few guys go down.”
It was a hard-hitting affair with both teams losing a forward to injury. The Knights’ Tomas Nosek appeared to have injured his right shoulder after being hit by Alexei Emelin in the first period while Nashville’s Ryan Johansen took a hard hit from Will Carrier along the boards in the neutral zone in the second period. Neither player returned, forcing both coaches to juggle their lines.
Gallant said he wasn’t sure what Nosek’s status is for Thursday’s game at Tampa Bay but he hoped to have both Cody Eakin and Brendan Leipsic available for the Lightning after both sat out Tuesday. But Gallant was pleased with the play of Ryan Carpenter and Oscar Lindberg, who joined Alex Tuch on the third line replacing Eakin and Leipsic.
“I thought they did their job and I was really happy with everybody tonight,” Gallant said.
Tuch said the line put good pressure on Saros and probably deserved a better fate. And despite the power play going 0 for 4 on Tuesday, it looked better than Saturday’s 0-for-6 performance against Edmonton in a 3-2 overtime loss.
“We had a lot of great opportunities, myself included,” Tuch said. “Sometimes a goalie gets a little bit hot and gets a little lucky, too.”
That was evident during a second-period power play when Tuch whacked at a loose puck that was headed across the goal line only to have defenseman Austin Watson clear it before it crossed.
“You can’t dwell on it,” Tuch said as the Knights remain atop the Pacific Division with 61 points (29-11-3). “We’ve got to move on. We’ve got a tough game Thursday against the best team in the league.”