NEWARK, N.J. — If the Golden Knights had any intention of giving minor-league goaltender Garret Sparks his first start, Tuesday would have been an opportune time.
The Knights were on the second game of a back-to-back and faced a New Jersey Devils team reeling from Monday’s humiliating 7-1 loss at Buffalo that cost coach John Hynes his job.
But coach Gerard Gallant stuck with the hot hand, and Malcolm Subban rewarded his faith by earning his fourth straight victory.
Subban finished with 32 saves to help the Knights beat the Devils 4-3 at Prudential Center and again showed the Knights have a reliable backup to spell Marc-Andre Fleury.
5th start in 9 days
“I felt good obviously. It’s nice when you feel the coaching staff and the management have confidence in you to put you in back-to-back situations,” Subban said. “I’m thankful for that, and I’m mainly thankful we won.”
Subban made his fifth start in nine days while Fleury remains on a personal leave from the team after his father died last week.
Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said he expects Fleury to join the team on its current road trip, but is not sure whether he will be available for Thursday’s game against the New York Islanders.
In the meantime, Subban is capably holding down the fort. During his current win streak, he owns a 1.95 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.
It’s a near 180-degree turn from the first month and a half of the season when Subban started 0-4-2 and missed more than two weeks with a lower-body injury.
16 saves in 1st period
“You get a couple wins, start to feel better about yourself, start to feel good about your game and stuff,” Subban said. “It’s been great. Obviously I still have stuff to work on, but it’s coming along.”
Subban made 16 of his saves in the first period and stopped New Jersey’s leading scorer Taylor Hall on a breakaway moments before Kyle Palmieri moved in alone and scored the Devils’ first goal.
He wasn’t nearly as busy the rest of the way but kept his team within striking distance until Jonathan Marchessault put the Knights ahead with a natural hat trick in the third period.
“Awesome. He was real good,” Gallant said. “He looked fresh in there, and I thought he played a real strong game.”
Subban also earned bragging rights over his brother P.K., a defenseman for the Devils.
“It’s always fun to beat him,” Malcolm Subban said, “especially knowing how he is.”
It was hard to fault Subban for New Jersey’s second goal, as Jesper Bratt one-timed a cross-ice pass from defenseman Damon Severson with 5:43 remaining in the second period.
Hall and Knights center Paul Stastny got tangled up in front of the net, causing Hall to lose his balance and fall into Subban. The Knights challenged for goaltender interference, but the NHL Situation Room ruled “the actions of Vegas’ Paul Stastny caused Taylor Hall to contact Malcolm Subban prior to Jesper Bratt’s goal.”
”You understand the call, but it’s tough. And he kind of stayed in there after, so I couldn’t really get across,” Subban said. “When I saw the replay he kind of bumped into (Stastny). I think he was trying to go off of Stastny. I don’t think Stastny intended to push him into me. He was trying to get off him to get more leverage and hit him off of him.
“What can you do? We won the game, so I’m not too worried about it anymore.”