Plenty of goaltenders want to reach a career milestone with little fanfare and the spotlight pointed in a different direction.
Marc-Andre Fleury says he’s like that, too. Then, the Golden Knights’ backstop makes a gravity-defying glove save and smiles and giggles to everybody watching back home in Canada.
He just can’t help himself.
“He has that style and that flair,” backup goalie Malcolm Subban said.
Fleury set the early benchmark for save of the year with his diving stop on Nic Petan in Tuesday’s 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at T-Mobile Arena, becoming the seventh goalie in league history to reach 450 wins in the process.
Considering the degree of difficulty involved and the stage of the game, it might be Fleury’s finest save in a Knights uniform. Coach Gerard Gallant said Wednesday there’s no debate.
“I’ve been around a long time. It’s the best I’ve seen (ever),” he said. “Just from where it happened. Everybody thought the puck was going to hit the glass and go around. Nobody expected that. That’s what makes the save amazing, because it hits the referee in the shin pad and goes back out to the side.
“It happened so quick. For him to come and react that quickly, that’s what makes the save amazing for me.”
Here are five more contenders for Fleury’s best save with the Knights:
1. Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele (May 16, 2018)
This was the play that came to define Fleury during the Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Midway through the third period of Game 3 of the Western Conference Final against Winnipeg, Fleury was stranded out of position after he kicked out a one-timer from Scheifele.
He scrambled to recover and dived across his crease to knock down Scheifele’s drive on the rebound. The Knights went on to win 4-2 and took the series in five games.
“The one against Winnipeg the first year in the playoffs I think would be my favorite,” right wing Ryan Reaves said, “but (Tuesday) was maybe 1A and 1B there because he caught it. That’s tough to do.”
2. Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux (Oct. 13, 2018)
As part of a 26-save shutout, Fleury robbed the Flyers’ captain on a breakaway during the second period to keep the game scoreless.
Giroux rounded the goaltender on his forehand and tried to tuck the puck inside the post. But Fleury, who lost his stick moments earlier, was able to reach back and trap the puck along the ice with his catching glove.
The play was voted the save of the year at the 2019 NHL Fan Choice Awards.
3. San Jose’s Logan Couture (April 30, 2018)
Subban cited this stop from overtime in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals as his personal favorite.
Joe Pavelski was stationed behind the net and spotted Couture waltzing down the slot alone for a one-timer. Fleury recognized the danger at the last moment, pushed off his post and followed through with a swing of his arm after making a glove save to keep the score 3-3.
“He has the best windmill of all time,” Subban said of Fleury’s glove hand.
4. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (June 2, 2018)
No list of Fleury’s top saves is complete without one against his longtime rival.
In Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Knights gave up a 2-on-1 about a minute into the first period. Evgeny Kuznetsov saucered a pass to Ovechkin, who was streaking down the right wing.
But Fleury slid across and extended his left arm to deflect the puck over the net.
5. Giroux (Oct. 13, 2018)
Honorable mention goes to Fleury’s stops this season against Los Angeles’ Jeff Carter on Oct. 13 and Juuso Riikola of Pittsburgh on Oct. 19, but this stop against Giroux might have been better than the previous one on this list.
In the final minute, Fleury waded through his crease from right to left and appeared out of position following a cross-ice pass to Giroux, who was stationed below the left faceoff dot.
But Fleury made a desperation dive back to his right and gloved down Giroux’s shot in a save that was reminiscent of the one he made with Pittsburgh in 2009 at the end of Game 7 to win the Stanley Cup.
■ Who: Sharks at Golden Knights
■ When: 7 p.m. Thursday
■ Where: T-Mobile Arena
■ TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, Dish 414/5414)
■ Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
■ Line: Knights -180; total 6½