Malcolm Subban shut out the Philadelphia Flyers for nearly 30 minutes in Thursday night’s season-opener for the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.
It would have been far more notable had it not happened in a 5-2 loss after starter Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled with the Knights trailing by four goals.
Fleury, who allowed only two goals in two preseason games, stopped just 11 of the 16 shots he faced before heading to the bench at 10:11 of the second period.
“(The frustration) is not about coming out,” he said. “It’s more about giving up five in less than two periods. As a goalie, it’s tough to get pulled, but at the same time it’s tough to give up five in such a short period of time.”
Fleury, who was pulled just twice because of poor play last season, has been very successful in season openers. He stopped 45 of 46 shots to help the Knights win at Dallas last season.
The longtime Pittsburgh Penguins netminder had been 9-4 in season openers, recording a .935 save percentage in those games, and had a chance to tie Martin Brodeur and Curtis Joseph for the all-time mark had he won a 10th on Thursday night.
Fleury had never given up five in his team’s first game of the season, though he was pulled from an Oct. 5, 2007 game against Carolina after allowing four goals in the first two periods.
Thursday’s struggles certainly weren’t all on him.
“We left him out to dry tonight,” defenseman Jon Merrill said. “That’s not fair. He’s the best in the league and we can’t rely on him to make highlight-reel saves all night long, so we’ve got to be better.
Coach Gerard Gallant agreed.
“It was on the team,” he said. “I didn’t like the way we were playing. Marc will be upset with himself, but it wasn’t Marc-Andre Fleury. It was our team.”
Subban stopped all nine shots he faced, but the damage had already been done.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who scored a short-handed goal, said Subban was the lone bright spot on a disappointing night that began on a high note with the Pacific Division and Western Conference championship banners raised to the rafters.
“(He was) the shine of our game,” Bellemare said. “We were not good enough and then he came. It’s fun to see and it’s good to see.”
Fleury hopes the disappointing effort helps the team focus ahead of a five-game road trip that begins Saturday at Minnesota.
“Coming off a great season and a good preseason also, we thought it was going to be a good night for us,” he said. “ I think this is a good reminder there are no easy nights. You have to battle for every point in the standings. It’s obviously very frustrating to get beaten so bad at home in the opener.
“I’d rather win them all, especially more than getting embarrassed at home, but In the grand scheme of things, maybe it is a good wake-up call.”