SAN JOSE, Calif. — It wasn’t revenge, but it’ll do for the preseason.
The Golden Knights returned to SAP Center on Saturday, the site of their season-ending Game 7 loss in April, and defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in the rivals’ first meeting since the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Left wing Max Pacioretty had a goal and two assists, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury played well in his preseason debut and the Knights improved to 4-0 this September.
They meet the Sharks again at T-Mobile Arena on Sept. 29 before opening the regular season with back-to-back games against their fellow Pacific Division club.
“Every time we come back in here, you get some of those memories,” defenseman Jon Merrill said. “You get the juices flowing a little bit. We want to beat these guys every time we can.”
Here’s what we learned from the Knights’ win:
1. Fleury looks like Fleury (Except to himself)
Fleury looked regular-season ready and stopped 28 of 29 shots.
Merrill said the Knights’ starting goalie was “great, as always,” and coach Gerard Gallant said he thought Fleury played well. That left the 34-year-old to be his own worst critic.
“I felt all over the place,” said Fleury, who is preparing for his 16th NHL season. “A little slow, bad angles. If you think it looked pretty good, then that’s good, right? I fooled you.”
Despite how he felt, Fleury stopped the first 16 shots he faced until Sharks forward Antti Suomela scored on a deflection with 5:05 left in the second period. The netminder would still like another preseason start to make sure he’s ready for the Knights’ season opener Oct. 2.
“You don’t see everything in one game,” Fleury said. “I think there’s always little things you can keep working on.”
2. Defensemen get praised, but Coghlan stands out
Coach Gerard Gallant said before the game the Knights’ young defensemen battling for a roster spot are forcing the team into a difficult decision because they’re all playing well.
That continued postgame, when the coach praised the efforts of Dylan Coghlan, Jimmy Schuldt and Zach Whitecloud.
“I thought they were all real good again, to be honest with you,” Gallant said. “They all made some real good plays. They played better defensively, so I thought they played a great game.”
Coghlan had the most notable game of the trio. His skating, shot and defensive instincts impressed. One of his slap shots in the first period was so hard that Sharks forward Lean Bergmann needed a few seconds to recover after blocking it. Defensively, Coghlan broke up a 2-on-1 early in the second period.
“He’s not afraid out there,” said Merrill, Coghlan’s defensive partner. “He’s willing to go out and make plays. He’s just a lot of fun to play with.”
Whitecloud and Schuldt also flashed at times and both got a long look. Schuldt played a team-high 22:19 and was the only defenseman to receive power-play time. Whitecloud was the only one of the trio to play on the penalty kill.
3. Glass keeps making his case
Knights top prospect Cody Glass moved back to center after playing right wing Thursday and looked like the playmaker the team hoped it was getting when it drafted him No. 6 overall in 2017.
Glass, who played with Pacioretty on his left and either Alex Tuch or Reilly Smith on his right, finished with two assists. He likely made keeping him off the roster more difficult.
“Playing with guys like Pacioretty and Smith, that’ll make it 10 times easier on yourself,” Glass said. “And Tuch. He’s a speedster and he’s really good to play with.
“They’ve been really good to me.”
Gallant said the 20-year-old turned the puck over too much at times, but he continues to improve.
“He made some good plays,” Gallant said. “He’s learning every game.”
Sept. 15: Golden Knights 6, Arizona 2
Sept. 17: Golden Knights 5, Colorado 0
Sept. 19: Golden Knights 3, Los Angeles 2 (OT)
Saturday: Golden Knights 3, San Jose 1
Wednesday: vs. Colorado, 7 p.m.
Friday: vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m. (NHL Network)
Sept. 29: vs. San Jose, 5 p.m. (NHL Network)
All games broadcast on KTNV-13