Updated May 23, 2021 - 12:54 pm
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Wild forward Kevin Fiala smacked his stick on the back of the Golden Knights’ net Saturday after a shift during which his two shots and one centering pass didn’t lead to a goal.
He was frustrated. No one could blame him.
Fiala and many of the Wild’s other forwards have been thwarted, foiled and stymied at every turn throughout the team’s first-round series against the Knights.
Their primary antagonist? Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Knights goaltender has been nigh impregnable, and that continued Saturday when he posted his first shutout of the series in a 4-0 win in Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center. He made 35 saves as the Knights took a 3-1 series lead.
“Marc-Andre Fleury (is) playing unreal,” Wild forward Marcus Foligno said. “We’ve done a lot of good things in front of him. He’s made some great saves.”
Fleury indeed added several impressive stops to his collection.
Along with his saves on Fiala, he denied center Joel Eriksson Ek on a breakaway late in the second period. That save was one of five he made on the penalty kill to help the Knights finish 3-for-3.
“That could’ve changed the game,” Knights captain Mark Stone said. “Pretty key for us. They get that goal, four minutes left in the second period, game looks a lot different 3-1 than going into the third 3-0. Our penalty kill’s been good, but our goalie’s also been really good.”
Fleury did more than just makes saves. He was an important part of the Knights’ breakouts. The Wild kept trying to play dump-and-chase hockey by sending the puck behind his net, and Fleury made a lot of sharp passes to send his team the other way.
It took a lot of the bite out of Minnesota’s forecheck and helped the Knights create offense.
“They were trying to get a lot of pucks deep, and he was making it easier on our defensemen and on our forwards to help us with the breakouts,” left wing Alex Tuch said. “It stops their forecheck a lot, and it stops their momentum.”
It added up to another complete performance for Fleury, who continues to post incredible numbers. He has a 0.99 goals-against average and .966 save percentage in the series. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in 13 straight starts.
He also tied Grant Fuhr on Saturday with his 150th playoff appearance, tied for the fourth-most all time among goaltenders. Fleury’s 16th playoff shutout tied him for the third-most all time with Curtis Joseph.
“I just try to go out, try to make the saves,” Fleury said. “My team’s been great for me. They’ve been helping a lot with rebounds and blocking shots and all that stuff. I’ve been getting some goal support the last few games, too. I just try to keep the game close, try to make that first save and not think too far ahead.”
Here are three takeaways from the win:
1. Roy steps up
Center Nicolas Roy had the first two-goal game of his career, providing key secondary scoring for the Knights.
Roy and his linemates — left wing Mattias Janmark and right wing Keegan Kolesar — all finished with two points. Roy also tied his season high with four shots on goal. With Roy and Kolesar getting on the scoresheet, 16 of the 21 players the Knights have used in the series have scored at least a point.
“I really liked that line,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “You need depth scoring in the playoffs, and I thought those guys have been spinning their tires a little bit for a couple games. We really needed them.”
2. PK dominance
The Knights’ penalty-kill unit has been perfect in the series.
It held the Wild’s power play scoreless again Saturday to improve to 8-for-8 in the four games. That included killing a four-minute double minor when defenseman Zach Whitecloud was whistled for high-sticking forward Zach Parise.
Stone responded by scoring the Knights’ third short-handed goal of the playoffs. He’s the third player in team history to score on the penalty kill in the postseason, joining William Karlsson and Colin Miller.
“As a whole, we did a great job,” Stone said. “We were limiting them off the rush. We did a great job with some blocks.”
3. Tuch scores again
The Wild probably are sick of seeing Knights left wing Alex Tuch and being reminded that they gave him up in a 2017 expansion-draft trade.
Tuch has three goals in the series, tied for the second-most of the playoffs. He has the most postseason goals in Knights history with 18.
On Saturday, he simply used his speed to blow past Wild defensemen Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba after they were forced to stay out after an icing.
“The way he moves, the strength he’s got, the skill he has, those kind of goals happen,” Stone said. “Not many guys can skate at that speed and make those kind of plays. It looked very simple, but I can’t say I’ve ever been at that speed to make that play, so I think it was probably a pretty tough play.”
Golden Knights vs. Wild
Knights lead series 3-1
Game 1: Wild 1, Knights 0 (OT)
Game 2: Knights 3, Wild 1
Game 3: Knights 5, Wild 2
Game 4: Knights 4, Wild 0
Game 5: at Knights, 7:30 p.m., Monday (AT&T SportsNet)
x-Game 6: at Minnesota, Wednesday
x-Game 7: at Knights, Friday