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Marc-Andre Fleury stellar, but can’t overcome lack of support

I’m not sure there is a better windmill than a Marc-Andre Fleury save right now short of those whipping blades off the Greek island of Mykonos. You can see those beauties resting on a cliff while sailing toward a harbor.

The ones Fleury offered Sunday allowed his Golden Knights team an opportunity to open the Stanley Cup playoffs with a win. Too bad those in front of him didn’t support the effort.

Stop us if you have heard this before, but it seems the Minnesota Wild have no problem matching their strengths against the Knights and coming out on top.

The Wild emerged with a 1-0 overtime victory before 8,683 at T-Mobile Arena, taking the first game in a best-of-seven divisional series that is going to be a whole lot more competitive than some mistakenly imagine.

I mean, you have watched the teams engage over four seasons now, yes?

Minnesota is 5-0-1 against the Knights in the past six meetings.

The Wild, shall we say, aren’t shaking in their skates regarding the matchup.

An easy decision

Pete DeBoer said it was an easy decision to start Fleury in goal after the coach rotated him with Robin Lehner this season. It proved successful everywhere but where it matters most.

That’s on everyone else.

“(Fleury) was great,” DeBoer said. “Both goaltenders were excellent (this season), but (Fleury) really carried us during some of the tougher periods and really was consistent all season. And he was great down the stretch, too. Fairly easy decision and a nice luxury to have two guys like we have.”

Fleury would stop all but one of 30 shots, with the final and most significant attempt occurring at 3:20 into overtime.

What was as entertaining a scoreless hockey game could be was over when Alex Pietrangelo turned the puck over in his own zone and a Joel Eriksson Ek shot beat Fleury from the slot after it deflected off defenseman Alec Martinez.

Time and again over three periods, the Wild fired Grade A chances at Fleury.

Time and again, he denied them. He had a better glove than Mookie Betts.

I don’t want to say Minnesota winger Ryan Hartman will have nightmares over all his missed chances against Fleury, but it might be safe to keep the lights on for a night or two.

“I was just trying to take it one shot at a time against me,” Fleury said. “Our guys had the puck a lot in the first (period), and it was quiet on my side. I was just cheering for them, trying to keep them in the game, keep the game close. It’s definitely frustrating to lose that one at the end.”

His team finished with 42 shots. None made it past Wild goalie Cam Talbot. He also was terrific. He was the Talbot of earlier this season. That particular guy could win this series if the Knights don’t figure him out.

Hits aplenty

Minnesota was credited with a franchise record 71 hits, and yet while things were absolutely physical, I missed the part in which the same statistician who used to record John Stockton assists back in the day was hired by the NHL.

That said, the Knights in Game 2 on Tuesday need to do a much better job breaking down the Wild.

They can’t spend games primarily on the outside. Not against this opponent.

“It’s disappointing we couldn’t score one goal for (Fleury),” Knights captain Mark Stone said. “He did a great job to kind of bail us out in the third period. They had some really good chances to end it before they did. I didn’t really expect anything different. He plays great for us every night.”

He was again. Fleury more than did his part.

Windmills and all.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached 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 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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