Golden Knights again tame one of NHL’s best in Alex Ovechkin

It was late in the second period Saturday when a scuffle broke out near a blue line at T-Mobile Arena. The players involved were Deryk Engelland — who else — for the Golden Knights and a guy who wears No. 8 for the Capitals.

Yes. It’s true.

Alex Ovechkin really was in attendance.

The Knights started fast, the Capitals early on looked more sluggish than your old man after a third helping of Christmas dinner, and Vegas won 3-0 before 18,025 fans, again taming one of the world’s best players in the process.

It has proved sort of a mixed bag when it to comes to the Knights slowing those stars skating for opposite sides, but more often than not, whatever game plan Gerard Gallant and his staff have designed against the league’s top individual skill has translated into wins.

Ovechkin has scored 627 career goals over the regular season and playoffs and is second in the league this year with 23, but he was limited to just three shots Saturday, never solving what was a brilliant performance from Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

“You have to know who’s out there and who’s hot, especially really special players,” said Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt, who played four seasons with the Capitals before being chosen by Vegas in the expansion draft. “You have to make sure you take care of them. We jumped on them right away and got them playing from behind.

“It’s hard to come back against a team that’s playing well like we are. It’s a tough situation to be in. I’ve had to kill against that (Washington) power play many times in practice, and I can tell you there are a lot of dynamic players who can move the puck and score. We were patient. If you get overly anxious and get yourself overextended, those guys can make you look silly. We let the game come to us.”

They killed all four power plays against them, and Fleury would stop 26 shots in his first shutout as a Golden Knight. Washington’s top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson accounted for just six shots.

Sidney Crosby didn’t even attempt a shot against the Knights in a 2-1 loss by the Penguins. Phil Kessel had just two shots that night. Connor McDavid is a superstar who hurt Vegas, scoring twice and assisting on another goal in an 8-2 win by Edmonton. Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks had a junk goal in a 4-2 Knights victory, as did David Pastrnak of the Bruins in a 3-1 Knights win here.

The leading players on the Islanders — John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Anders Lee — all had multiple points in Brooklyn on Oct. 30, but that’s also the night goalie Oscar Dansk was injured and Maxime Lagace was forced into his first NHL action. It didn’t go well, and the Islanders won 6-3.

On Tuesday, the Knights beat Tampa Bay 4-3, and Nikita Kucherov (league-leading 24 goals) and Steven Stamkos each had two points.

“There is definitely a lot of talent around the league,” Fleury said. “Special players. Need to keep an eye on them and see where they are at. They can always find openings and room to make plays for scoring chances.”

On the game’s final shot Saturday, Ovechkin lined one up from the slot with no one in front of him.

“Oh, God, it was so close,” Fleury said. “I thought it was going in. It was a good feeling when it didn’t. I was happy.”

Said Knights forward David Perron: “(Fleury) is our superstar. That (final) save against Ovechkin was for him. Good on him.”

So ends a homestand during which the Knights won four of five, including victories against league-best Tampa Bay, two-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh and a Capitals squad that’s a point out of first in the Metropolitan Division.

It means that the journey toward a potential playoff spot in the franchise’s inaugural season only grows stronger as Christmas arrives, that as the Knights have done a better-than-even-job against some of the world’s best players, success has found them often on the scoreboard.

“We have a ways to go, but these ones feel good,” Schmidt said. “That one was fun.”

It’s getting to be a common theme around here.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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