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Golden Knights select goaltender for Game 1 vs. Wild

Marc-Andre Fleury will start for the Golden Knights in their playoff opener against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.

Fleury earned the nod by putting together possibly his best season at age 36. He set career bests in goals-against average (1.98) and save percentage (.928). He also helped the Knights win the Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed in the NHL.

Fleury saved his best play for last, as well. He won his final nine starts and didn’t allow more than two goals in any of them.

Goaltender Robin Lehner, who split starts with Fleury almost the entire year when both were healthy, advocated that his teammate should win the Vezina Trophy on Twitter. Fleury has never been a Vezina finalist before but finished the year ranked third in wins (26), third in shutouts (six), fourth in goals-against average and fourth in save percentage (minimum 10 starts).

His victories moved him up to third on the all-time list with 492. Only Patrick Roy (551) and Martin Brodeur (691).

The year represented a major turnaround for Fleury, who has long been considered the face of the Knights franchise. He had the third-worst save percentage (.905) and fifth-worst goals-against average (2.77) of his career last season. It was a trying time for Fleury, whose father Andre died in November 2019.

Lehner, who was acquired at the 2020 trade deadline, ended up taking over the net in the postseason. He started 16 of the Knights’ 20 playoff games and performed well with a .917 save percentage and 1.99 goals-against average. Fleury played the other four games and had a .910 save percentage and 2.27 goals-against average.

Fleury got the nod in the first game Sunday but there’s no guarantee he keeps the job the entire postseason. Coach Pete DeBoer has said he plans to use the team’s depth in net.

“We don’t win the Jennings Trophy, we don’t have the record we have without having the best tandem in the league,” DeBoer said Saturday. “What that rolls out to in the playoffs, I’m not going to tip my hand. And to be honest with you, I’m not even sure I know. But one thing I do know, I’m not going to hesitate to use that strength.”

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

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