Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t happy with his play recently and thought a change was in order.
The Golden Knights goaltender dug out his gold pads for Saturday’s game, and the new look served its intended purpose.
Fleury posted his fourth shutout this season, and Reilly Smith had the lone goal as the Knights grinded out a 1-0 victory over the New York Islanders at T-Mobile Arena.
“I don’t know if it was the pads, though,” Fleury said. “I think my teammates played awesome. They got to pucks and didn’t give the other team much.”
Fleury allowed nine goals in his past two outings and entered with a .904 save percentage, well below his career average. But he made 19 saves wearing his gold setup for the first time since last season’s home finale April 4.
It was Fleury’s 60th career shutout, moving him past Evgeni Nabokov into 18th place on the all-time list.
Fleury was hardly tested until a late push from the Islanders, and he made a key stop on Ryan Pulock’s drive from the high slot with 1:07 remaining to secure the Knights’ 30th win.
Semyon Varlamov also shined in the Islanders’ net with 42 saves, including a spectacular stop with the paddle of his stick to deny Paul Stastny from in tight late in the second period.
The Knights finished with a lopsided advantage in shot attempts (68-36) and shots on goal (43-19) and also generated 3.38 expected goals off 30 scoring chances.
Smith provided the breakthrough late in the second when he gathered his own rebound after a backhand attempt went off the post and smashed the puck past Varlamov.
“It’s a big win, and we’ll take it and move on,” Smith said.
Here’s what stood out from the win:
Protect the house
St. Louis forward Zach Sanford scored four goals Thursday, and his final three measured a combined 31 feet from the net, though that number seems high since he was camped in front of the Knights’ net.
Knights coach Pete DeBoer said Friday his team needs “to get more of an attitude around there,” and that’s what happened against the Islanders.
New York managed 10 shots on goal through two periods and went from 6:35 of the second period until the 3:48 mark of the third period without testing Fleury. When the Islanders did threaten near the crease, the Knights were there to clear the danger.
Early in the first period, Islanders leading scorer Mathew Barzal skated through the Knights’ defense and put the puck into the slot, but William Karlsson intercepted the pass and skated it to safety.
Defensemen Brayden McNabb and Zach Whitecloud also had key clearances during a first-period penalty kill.
“I think tonight’s game, that’s the way we want to play,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “I think we were a lot better defensively. (Fleury) played unbelievable, but most importantly, guys were stepping in the lanes and really blocking a lot of shots.”
With lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in the building to crank the rally siren before the start of the game, the Knights and Islanders were in a fighting mood during the first period.
Knights enforcer Ryan Reaves and the Islanders’ 6-foot-5-inch, 235-pound Ross Johnston threw hands as soon as referee Gord Dwyer dropped the puck on the opening faceoff. Reaves nodded his head on his way to the penalty box, pleased with both combatants’ effort.
Midway through the period, Knights defenseman Nick Holden wiped out Barzal behind the net, and New York captain Anders Lee stepped in to fight Holden.
The teams combined for 24 minutes in penalties and 25 hits in the first period.
The Knights improved to 2-0 on this rugged five-game homestand and moved into third place in the Pacific Division, tied in points with Edmonton.
After struggling at home most of the season, the Knights are now 16-10-4 at T-Mobile Arena. They continue the homestand Monday against Washington before hosting Tampa Bay and Florida.