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3 takeaways from Knights’ win: ‘Complete game’ defeats old friends

Updated April 1, 2023 - 10:19 pm

Marc-Andre Fleury received a warm reception when he stepped onto the T-Mobile Arena ice for the second time as a visiting player.

Cheers cascaded from the crowd as he began warmups Saturday before the Minnesota Wild’s game against the Golden Knights. Signs offered support through the glass by the Wild bench. Center Chandler Stephenson greeted him across the center red line with a stick tap.

The happy reunion stopped when play started.

Fleury, still one of the most popular players in Knights history, was given no mercy after puck drop. His old teammates scored three times on their first 10 shots to hand Minnesota a 4-1 loss in front of an announced crowd of 18,398.

The defeat denied the Wild the chance to clinch a playoff spot. It kept the Knights on top of the Western Conference standings, as Minnesota entered Saturday only two points behind with seven games to play.

“I thought it was one of our more complete games,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “How it’s supposed to look.”

Fleury produced incredible moments in the T-Mobile Arena crease during his four seasons with the Knights (47-22-7).

The NHL’s third winningest goalie of all-time led the team to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. He won the 2021 Vezina Trophy. He made a save so good against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 19, 2019, the Knights made a statue of it.

He created plenty of highlights again Saturday. Just not enough to win.

The Wild (44-23-9) took a 1-0 lead five minutes into the first period on right wing Matt Boldy’s 10th goal in his last seven games, but the Knights fired back fast.

Defenseman Ben Hutton tied the game by burying a feed from center Jack Eichel 4:55 later. Then defenseman Zach Whitecloud gave the Knights the lead from the edge of the left circle with 3:47 left in the first, beating Fleury from 48 feet out.

Left wing Brett Howden extended the advantage to 3-1 only 2:21 into the second.

Fleury did his best in the third period to buy Minnesota time to get back in the game. He made a windmill save on defenseman Brayden McNabb. He denied right wing Phil Kessel on a breakaway, and then again from the slot 15 seconds later.

It didn’t make a difference with goaltender Laurent Brossoit matching him stop for stop on the other end. Center Chandler Stephenson finished the game with an empty-net goal with 1:14 remaining.

The win gave the Knights 100 points for the second time in team history. They’re the fifth team in the NHL to hit that number this season.

Fleury fell to 1-2 against the Knights with nine goals allowed and a .906 save percentage. Fellow Golden Misfit Ryan Reaves had four hits for Minnesota in the loss.

“I thought they came out hard, but we responded well,” Hutton said. “We came back and showed we’re first in the West for a reason.”

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Brossoit bounces back

In the other net, goaltender Laurent Brossoit looked cool and comfortable making his second straight start for the Knights.

The 30-year-old made 29 saves to improve to 3-0-3 this season. He looked smooth doing it, never needing to get desperate to keep the puck out of his net.

“LB kicked for us,” Eichel said.

It was Brossoit’s best game since returning from a lower-body injury March 25 in Edmonton. He had a .867 save percentage in his first three appearances since coming off injured reserve.

2. Offensive defenseman

Hutton and Whitecloud gave the Knights two goals by defensemen in the same game for only the second time all season. The first instance came Feb. 23 in a 4-3 win against Calgary.

The goal gave Hutton points in back-to-back games for the first time this year. He has three points in two games since entering the lineup for defenseman Shea Theodore, who is out with an undisclosed injury.

Whitecloud has scored three goals in his last eight games after having only two in his first 47.

3. Eichel, Barbashev extend streaks

Eichel and left wing Ivan Barbashev stretched their point streaks to five games in the win.

Eichel, after clinching a playoff spot for the first time in his eight-year career, had two assists for his team-leading 15th multipoint game.

Barbashev had an assist on Howden’s goal. He has 13 points in 17 games since being acquired from the St. Louis Blues.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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