The Vegas Golden Knights only needed one goal to beat the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday. Marc-Andre Fleury and a tight-checking Golden Knights defense managed to pull off a 1-0 win against the Avalanche in a clash of West Division powers.
Fleury adds to his legacy, and hot start
Remember all of the talk about how Marc-Andre Fleury could serve as an important partner for Robin Lehner during this shortened season? Between Lehner’s injury and Fleury’s hot start, the Golden Knights are likely glad they haven’t traded him.
(At least yet?)
Fleury made 30 saves to shut out the Avalanche on Sunday. It’s his second shutout of the season, and the 63rd of his career. The 36-year-old improved his impressive career wins total to 473.
MAF already came into Sunday’s game with a .934 save percentage. So, yeah, he’s off to quite the start. Maybe his back healed up from that sword?
Rested (but rusty and understaffed) Avalanche vs. Golden Knights
Sunday’s Golden Knights – Avalanche game presented an interesting scenario of rest and rust. Thanks to COVID-19-related disruptions, Colorado last played on Feb. 2. Meanwhile, Vegas was closing off a back-to-back set after beating the Sharks 3-1 on Saturday.
Combine those factors with Nathan MacKinnon appearing in his first game since Jan. 31, and you’d think it would be advantage: Avs.
Naturally during these times, it wasn’t quite that simple. Between continued COVID protocol absences and injuries to the likes of Cale Makar, the Avalanche weren’t exactly at full-strength vs. the Golden Knights.
A recap of the Avs’ health situation:
Playing: MacKinnon, Toews, Bellemare
Out: Makar (day-to-day), Johnson, Calvert (back on ice this weekend), Francouz (LTIR)
AHL: Martin Kaut (injury) didn’t make the trip to California
In COVID-19 protocol: Jost, Landeskog, Girard
— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) February 14, 2021
Maybe you can chalk some of the tight play to those factors for both teams. Sure, Nathan MacKinnon did what he could, despite Vegas having even more incentive than usual to smother the speedy center.
Have mercy, Nathan MacKinnon.
Imagine if that had gone in. #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/xjgC1eiLnN
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) February 15, 2021
… And it’s also fair to note that there were moments when the game could’ve gotten a bit more freewheeling. Chandler Stephenson may still be haunted after getting handcuffed by an absolutely golden opportunity set up by Mark Stone.
Ultimately, it was Max Pacioretty who beat Philipp Grubauer with the kind of goal you can only really expect from a true sniper.
That was Pacioretty’s first goal since he generated a hat trick against the Blues on Jan. 26. “Patches” also broke a three-game pointless drought with what would end up being the lone goal of the Golden Knights’ win against the Avalanche.
NBC Sports will premiere Doc Emrick – The Voice of Hockey, Presented by Discover – detailing the illustrious career of U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member and eight-time Sports Emmy Award winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick – on Sunday, February 21 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, leading into coverage of the NHL outdoor game at Lake Tahoe featuring the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.