Malcolm Subban is human in shootouts, after all.
But the Golden Knights’ goaltender did enough Friday to maintain his perfect record in the competition.
Subban turned away two of three attempts in the shootout, and Alex Tuch potted the winner to lift the Knights to a 2-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes at T-Mobile Arena.
“He (Subban) was amazing. He stepped up. He was unreal again,” left wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “We always have confidence in him to do the job, and he did.”
Subban improved to 5-0 lifetime in shootouts, though he was beaten by the Coyotes’ Christian Dvorak in the third round. It was the first shootout goal Subban allowed in 19 career attempts.
Tuch then scored against Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper to lift the Knights to their second straight win. Marchessault also converted in the shootout.
“I wish I could describe the feeling to the guys,” Subban said. “I’m just kind of focused on the puck. You don’t really feel anything else. You’re kind of just in the game. Just trying to dial yourself in, not think about anything else. I guess that’s the best way to describe it.”
Subban was injured late in the first period of the first meeting against Arizona on Oct. 10 and had to leave the game. But he erased that memory with a 35-save effort in his third consecutive start while Marc-Andre Fleury is on a personal leave from the team.
Subban made a game-saving stop with 9.2 seconds left in regulation on Clayton Keller after allowing a rebound.
The Knights improved to 5-3-4 in one-goal games and moved into third place in the Pacific Division.
“I was happy with our team,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “It’s not about trying to get five and six goals every night. It’s about trying to win right now, and I think the last couple games have been a real good step forward.”
Here’s what stood out in the win:
1. Tuch steps up.
It’s been a difficult start to the season for Tuch, who missed the first 13 games with an upper-body injury, then sat out four more after taking a hard hit Nov. 2 against Winnipeg.
The third-line winger gave the Knights a 1-0 lead with his first goal since Oct. 31 when he redirected Nic Hague’s shot on the power play at 7:01 of the second period.
He made a silky move in the shootout for the winner, fooling Kuemper on the forehand.
“I try not to read too much into what the goalie is doing,” Tuch said. “I just have a move and I try to stick to it. Cross my fingers, hope it works.”
2. All systems go.
Gallant continues to downplay the significance of the team’s system change to a zone coverage on defense, but it’s made a difference in two games.
The Coyotes finished with 36 shots on goal, but many were from the perimeter that Subban turned away with little difficulty.
The Knights yielded four scoring chances at 5-on-5 in the first period and held Arizona without a shot on goal in the second until 8:22 remained.
“It’s going to get better as we go,” Hague said. “We just want to keep working hard, stick with it and make sure we’re winning the puck battles, and that goes a long way.”
3. Eakin injured.
Knights center Cody Eakin was on the receiving end of a hard hit from Arizona’s Brad Richardson with 7:22 remaining and did not return.
Richardson was handed a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head, but a source indicated he is not expected to be suspended, as Eakin’s head was not the main point of contact.
“They’re always tough when you see a guy leave the ice and not return to the game,” Gallant said. “Cody’s a character guy in that, and hopefully he’s going to be OK. We’ll know more (Saturday) and see where it goes.”