NEWARK, N.J. — There wasn’t a bit of panic to be found in the cramped visitors locker room at Prudential Center.
The Golden Knights knew what they needed to do to prevent making more history — this time the wrong kind. And with Marc-Andre Fleury turning in a stellar effort, forwards helping defensemen and all four lines skating and forechecking, the Knights regained their winning ways Sunday with a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils.
“It’s a good start,” coach Gerard Gallant said of the win, which snapped a three-game losing streak and began a five-game Eastern Conference road trip. “I thought we played a consistent, focused game and I was very happy with the way the guys competed.”
The Knights had not lost more than three straight all season, and defenseman Deryk Engelland said everyone understood what needed to be done to stop the skid.
“It’s how we’ve been all year when we’ve been playing well,” said Engelland, who scored in the second period to give the Knights a 2-1 lead. “I think everyone knew the last game wasn’t our best, and nobody had to say much.”
It was a strong bounce-back effort following Friday’s 5-4 loss to Ottawa and it was the veterans who led the way, starting with Fleury. He was on his game, stopping 33 of the 35 shots for his 22nd win of the year and 397th of his career.
“It was good to make some stops early and it felt good to win again,” said Fleury, who preserved the win with one second left when he stopped Kyle Palmieri’s 35-foot slap shot. “We just needed to relax a little and have everyone on the team chipping in.”
Taylor Hall, the Devils’ leading scorer, said Fleury was the difference.
“If there is one guy you want taking a one-timer with a couple of seconds left it’s (Palmieri),” Hall said. “I guess Fleury made some big saves. He is a guy who will challenge you and really force you to pick a corner.
“He is having a great year. You have to tip your cap sometimes.”
David Perron, who achieved a personal milestone with a goal and an assist Sunday for his 59th point to surpass his previous best of 57 points in 2013-14 with Edmonton, said it was all about the coaches having confidence in the players.
“We played a really solid game,” Perron said. “To fly all the way across the country and come in and play the way we did was good to see.
“You didn’t hear too much about the last couple of games. The coaches hit the reset button and it didn’t feel like it was the end of the world.”
The Knights were still shorthanded Sunday as forward James Neal, center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and defenseman Nate Schmidt remained out while battling undisclosed injuries.
But with Fleury strong in net, defensemen engaged and contributing offensively (Shea Theodore, Jon Merrill and Brad Hunt had assists along with Engelland’s goal) and newcomer Tomas Tatar scoring the game-winner late in the second period, the Knights regained their identity in improving to 42-18-5 overall (89 points).
“We didn’t give up near as many chances as the last couple of games,” Gallant said. “I thought we played a better defensive game and (Fleury) was real good in the net for us. He made that great save in the last two seconds.
“We got contributions from everyone. When we win, we do it as a team, and that’s what we did (Sunday).”
1. Reaves’ best effort. Rugged forward Ryan Reaves had his best game in four appearances. He assisted on Deryk Engelland’s goal, played hard and smart and worked well with linemates Ryan Carpenter and Tomas Nosek to provide a strong forecheck in the New Jersey zone.
2. Hischier solid. Nico Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, looked like he belongs in the NHL. The Devils’ rookie centered for Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri and did a good job in the faceoff circle, winning half his draws. But the Knights limited Hischier to one shot.
3. Haula scare. The Knights have plenty of injuries and thought they had another to deal with after Erik Haula and Palmieri collided. Haula got the worst of it, getting up slowly and holding his right arm. He went to the locker room, but returned and played his next shift.