Golden Knights fans banged on the glass and roared with approval Wednesday night when all 180 pounds of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury set his stick down and loosened his gloves as he stared down Calgary’s David Rittich at the opposing blue line.
Everyone loves a goalie fight.
Well, maybe not everyone.
Defenseman Nate Schmidt refused to even speculate how his teammate would have fared had Fleury’s fists started flying.
“I (would have) tackled him before it ever happened,” Schmidt said at practice Thursday. “Seriously, that’s not going to happen.”
It was a similar sentiment expressed by coach Gerard Gallant after a 2-1 win over the Pacific Division-leading Flames, a game in which Fleury’s career-long shutout streak ended at 200:30 despite recording his fourth straight win.
“We don’t want him fighting,” Gallant said. “I mean he is one of the top goalies, if not the top goalie in the league. He did a great job. He protects himself. He was fine. His job is to stop the puck and that’s what he does.”
Fleury has never fought in an NHL game, though he has said there is video out there of him throwing down in juniors.
He said he was willing to engage, but didn’t think Rittich actually was willing to do anything.
“He came to the blue line, so he felt a little challenged, but then didn’t move,” Fleury said. “I didn’t want to be chasing a goalie around. It was fine, I just thought he was going to come, and nothing happened.”
Rittich told reporters he didn’t want to “cross the red line and take a penalty.”
Fleury’s teammate Jonathan Marchessault was pleased the confrontation didn’t escalate even if he believe’s the goaltender could handle himself.
“I think he would have been good, but you don’t necessarily want your best player to get out there and fight somebody,” he said. “I know he’s trying to prove a point there, but that situation, I’d rather him stay in his blue paint.”
The teams renew acquaintances Sunday in Calgary and could also meet in the playoffs.
Offense from defense
Both of the Knights’ goals against Calgary were scored by defensemen, including Shea Theodore’s 11th of the season.
Theodore was tied with Montreal’s Jeff Petry for 13th in the league in goals by a defenseman entering Thursday’s games. His 32 points are tied for 30th among defensemen.
Since moving to right defense and pairing with Brayden McNabb, Theodore has three goals and four assists in nine games.
Theodore, who signed a seven-year, $36.4 million contract in September, had 11 goals in 114 career NHL games prior to this season.
“That’s why we signed him long-term last year because we had a lot of confidence in him,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We talked about him being a young and up-and-coming superstar on the back end, the way he skates and the way he handles the puck. But I think his game has gotten a lot better, defensively and offensively. He’s just taken off.
“From where he was last year to now, big improvement. And he needs to keep doing that because he’s a hell of a player and he’s got all the tools to do it.”
Fleury’s career-long shutout streak, which ended Wednesday at 200:30 (200:41, according to NHL PR), is the 67th time in NHL history a goaltender recorded a shutout streak of 200 minutes or more.
Twenty-six of the 67 instances occurred before the 1929-30 season.