ANAHEIM, Calif. — For just a moment, Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch was able to act like he wasn’t impressed with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
“Oh yeah, he got another shutout, huh?” Tuch deadpanned.
The moment didn’t last long. Not after Fleury made 34 saves against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday in a 3-0 win. And not after the goaltender picked up his league-leading 31st win and seventh shutout of the season in front of an announced crowd of 16,456 at Honda Center.
“Getting one is awesome, but the amount of times he shuts a team out is phenomenal,” Tuch said. “Just an unbelievable person all around that we want to go out and block shots for him. He does the rest. He’s probably the biggest part of our team’s success right now and moving forward.”
Fleury ensured the Knights (35-26-5) won their third straight even though they tied the Ducks, the lowest scoring team in the NHL, in shots on goal with 34. Tuch and centers William Karlsson and Cody Eakin scored to hand the Ducks (24-32-9) their fifth loss in a row.
Coincidentally, Anaheim’s leading scorer, Ryan Getzlaf, has missed five consecutive games with an upper-body injury.
“They always had people around the net,” Fleury said. “It makes a goalie’s job a little tougher, but my teammates helped me out a lot blocking shots and taking rebounds away.”
It was Fleury’s second straight win after a rough stretch that saw the goaltender lose five consecutive starts from Feb. 9 to Feb. 22. But in his last two starts against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday and Friday against the Ducks he made 57 of 58 saves and allowed one goal total.
Before Tuesday, Fleury had allowed two goals or more in every start since his last shutout Jan. 1.
“They didn’t have a whole ton of good chances, but when they did he made three, four unbelievable saves for us,” coach Gerard Gallant said.
His performance Friday was enough to top John Gibson, the Pacific Division’s other All-Star goaltender this season, in the latter’s first start since Feb. 7. Gibson made 31 saves, but the Knights scored first after Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg was called for delay of game with 5:58 left in the first period.
Center William Karlsson capitalized on the power play, scoring his 19th goal of the season with 5:11 left in the first after receiving a pass across the offensive zone from winger Mark Stone. The assist was Stone’s first point as a Knight after the team acquired him and minor leaguer Tobias Lindberg for prospect Erik Brannstrom, forward Oscar Lindberg and a 2020 second-round pick Monday.
The goal was Karlsson’s first since Feb. 14, snapping a six-game drought for the former Ducks’ draft pick.
The Knights extended their lead thanks to hustle from defenseman Shea Theodore and skill from Tuch. Theodore prevented a breakaway from Ducks forward Daniel Sprong after committing a turnover, and the Knights recovered the puck. Then forward Jonathan Marchessault zipped a long pass to Tuch, who scored between Gibson’s legs with a backhand shot with 1:47 left in the second period.
It was Tuch’s first goal since Jan. 21 and snapped a 14-game streak without a goal.
“It felt really good,” Tuch said. “It really did. It’s been a little bit so getting that one, it’s almost as good as getting the win.”
Center Cody Eakin added an empty-net goal with 21 seconds remaining.
“Real good, solid performance right from the drop of the puck,” Gallant said. “Scored a power-play goal, played good all night.”
1. Back to back. Friday’s game was the 10th time the Knights played on consecutive days this season. They improved to 4-5-1 in the second game of back-to-backs.
2. Theodore levels up. Defenseman Shea Theodore got an assist on center William Karlsson’s first-period power-play goal and set a new career-high in points (30).
3. Clean sweep. The Knights won all four of their meetings with the Ducks this season by a combined score of 14-3.