Updated January 24, 2021 - 6:44 pm
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Marc-Andre Fleury slid to his left in the closing seconds Sunday when a desperation shot by Arizona’s Alex Goligoski deflected off the skate of Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez.
Fleury anticipated the puck heading to the slot and nearly vacated his post early. But he kept his pad in position to kick out the tricky bounce before the buzzer.
A lot of skill and a dash of luck were all he needed to blank the Coyotes.
Fleury turned aside all 16 shots he faced and backstopped the Knights to a 1-0 victory in front of an announced crowd of 2,672 at Gila River Arena.
William Karlsson scored with 42.7 seconds left in the third period as the Knights took six of eight points from the Coyotes during their four-game series.
”Well tonight (I attribute my success), to my post. Saved my butt a few times,” Fleury said. “The guys have been playing great in front of me. Making my job a little easier. They blocked a lot of shots. It was a battle until the end, but we played well defensively. That’s why we’re doing so well so far.”
The shots on goal allowed by the Knights were tied for the second fewest in franchise history and one off the record set Oct. 27, 2019, against Anaheim.
Fleury moved into sole possession of 17th place on the all-time list with his 62nd career shutout, breaking a tie with Turk Broda. It was the fewest saves he’s ever had to make in his career during a shutout.
The 36-year-old Fleury is tied for the league lead in wins after improving to 3-0. He’s stopped 58 of 61 shots for a .951 save percentage and owns a 1.00 goals-against average.
“I thought (Fleury) gave us exactly the kind of game we needed,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “The guy at the other end (Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper) was standing on his head. We were pushing hard for a goal, and when that happens, we didn’t have a lot of breakdowns, but when we did they were some grade-A’s.”
Arizona’s Lawson Crouse rang a shot off the far post in the first period, and Johan Larsson fired a shot from the left-wing boards in the opening minutes of the third period that beat Fleury cleanly but clanked the iron.
Fleury also came up with a pair of huge stops to keep the game goalless and give the Knights a chance to snatch a win.
“I didn’t have too many shots though, so the hardest thing was just stay into it, stay focused and be ready for those things,” Fleury said.
Arizona defenseman Jakob Chychrun fired a one-timer from the point just before the second-period buzzer that Fleury turned away.
Then early in the third period, Coyotes winger Phil Kessel slipped past Knights defenseman Zach Whitecloud in the neutral zone and moved in alone. But Fleury closed off his five hole and denied his former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate on the breakaway.
“They were unreal saves. They were game-changers,” said Jonathan Marchessault, who assisted on Karlsson’s goal. “It’s always great to get him a shutout, obviously, but he’s been huge with those saves, and he had a few posts, but he’s just in good positions. The dude is just doing what he does best.”