Updated May 5, 2021 - 9:44 pm
The Golden Knights just had to make a milestone victory for Marc-Andre Fleury as difficult as possible.
They had to play with 17 skaters because of injuries. They had to turn a 1-0 third-period lead into a 2-1 deficit in a building they’ve historically struggled in. They had to wait until the final second of a late power play to tie the game. And they had to wait until overtime to secure a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center.
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo scored the winning goal, but the night belonged to Fleury.
The 36-year-old goaltender now has 490 career victories, breaking a tie with Roberto Luongo for the third-most in NHL history.
“I’m just trying to win when I get the chance,” Fleury said. “I knew this season was a short season and both me and Robin (Lehner) get to play. I didn’t think I was going to reach Roberto, and I’m pretty honored to have a chance to play enough and play with such a great team that allowed me to catch him.”
Fleury’s climb up the leaderboard began Oct. 18, 2003, when he won his first game as an 18-year-old for the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the same year he was selected No. 1 overall in the draft.
He has carved out an incredible career. He’s won three Stanley Cups. He’s played in 881 games. He’s become a franchise icon twice over. And now he’s won more games than any other goaltender in NHL history except Hall of Famers Martin Brodeur (691) and Patrick Roy (551).
Fleury has a lot of work to do to climb any higher. But he’s already defied the odds by piling up 115 wins in four seasons with an expansion franchise.
“It’s tough to even fathom being able to win that many games,” right wing Reilly Smith said. “The testament to Marc is just how he shows up to the rink every day, always a smile on his face and truly enjoys every moment of it.”
It’s hard to imagine that Fleury and his teammates were overjoyed during parts of the third period.
Center Chandler Stephenson put the Knights ahead 1-0 in the second period, and Fleury held the lead with 18 saves after two periods. Then, deja vu struck.
Just as the Wild scored two goals 26 seconds apart to stun the Knights in a 6-5 victory Monday, they rallied again. Rookie forward Kirill Kaprizov struck twice in 2:10 to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead with 6:37 remaining.
It looked as if the Wild, who entered the game 6-0-1 against the Knights all time at Xcel Energy Center, would get the last laugh again. But Smith tied the game with one second remaining on a power play, and Pietrangelo found the net in overtime to give the Knights their own come-from-behind victory.
Fleury finished with 26 saves in winning his seventh straight game. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game in that span.
It has been a dominant stretch, but it’s not even the best one of his career. That’s a testament to his durability and longevity, and the record book reflects that.
“He was great,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “We needed everybody to show up tonight to beat this team on the road in this building with some of the guys missing from our lineup, and we got that and it started with him. He was really solid, especially in key moments.”