Fleury, Knights beat Kings 1-0 in Vegas’ 1st playoff game
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Chalk up another milestone for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves for his 11th career playoff shutout, Shea Theodore scored in the first period and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 on Wednesday night to win the franchise’s first playoff game.
The expansion club will try to take a 2-0 lead in its first-round playoff series Friday night.
“It’s another first for our organization, it’s a big playoff game and I love the way our team responded,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “Both goalies made some real key saves. It really wasn’t a 1-0 game, it was probably a 4-3 game for somebody, but the goaltending was excellent. Everybody had a big part of us winning the hockey game tonight.
Fleury got his first playoff shutout since last May, when his Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 1-0 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“They’re a big team, they like to shoot from the points with a lot of guys in front of the net and trying to screen and tip pucks; maybe I got a few little more sticks in my legs than the (regular) season, and my face, but it’s all part of the playoffs,” Fleury said. “I felt good, but my teammates were great also. They helped me out a lot, blocking shots and grabbing guys in front of the net, so it makes my job a little easier.”
The Kings, who entered with a combined 928 games of playoff experience, outhit the Golden Knights, 68-59. But it was Vegas that came out looking like a seasoned bunch ready for the postseason. Just like the Golden Knights mascot who slayed a bumbling king at center ice during a pregame show, Vegas was physical from the start.
William Carrier led the team with 10 hits, and Vegas’ aggressive forechecking kept Los Angeles off its game throughout. But Carrier’s diligence on the offensive end seemingly frustrated Los Angeles’ veteran defenseman Drew Doughty, who slammed his shoulder into Carrier’s jaw in the third period. The hit sent the left wing to the locker room for the remainder of the game, while drawing the ire of Gallant.
“Obviously we all seen what happened with the hit ... I thought it was a bad hit, but it’s not for me to decide,” Gallant said. “The referee didn’t think it was a penalty, but I’m sure people will look at that hit and make a decision on it.”
The Golden Knights have dealt with a rash of injuries down the stretch of the regular season, including Carrier, who Gallant said is day-to-day.
Theodore got on the board 3:23 into the first. Tomas Nosek came from behind the goal to fire a pass to Theodore, and he blasted a wrist shot through traffic for the Golden Knights’ first playoff goal.
“It was a great play by Nosey and sometimes you’ve just got to get ’em on net and that’s kind of the goals that happened in the playoffs,” Theodore said. “We knew they were going to come out hard, they’re a physical team. But I feel we are, too. We’re a fast team and we can counter that. We were putting pucks in great positions ... so when you can kind of put it in the corners and forecheck hard, I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”
The Kings, who were 0 for 3 with a man advantage, blew a chance to tie it in the second period, when Doughty’s rebound found Dustin Brown, who was staring into an empty net 2 feet away. He lifted his shot over the goal.
“I thought our guys played hard tonight and I thought we created some opportunities to get some offense, but I think we’ve got to make it a lot tougher on (Fleury) seeing the puck,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “They’re a good offensive team, they create on the rush, they create in the zone and their power play is dangerous. So, we’re going to have to be good defensively to have success in the series.”
NOTES: The Golden Knights were 34-5-2 in the regular season when scoring first, second in the NHL. ... NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance for the first playoff game in Las Vegas. ... Los Angeles, which allowed a league-low 202 goals and had the league’s best penalty-killing unit, stopped the Golden Knights on all three of their power plays. ... Los Angeles has won 10 of the last 12 playoff series it has played, but it has lost 21 of the last 29 series in which it has lost Game 1. ... The Golden Knights wore Humboldt Broncos stickers on their helmets in honor of the junior hockey players who were killed when their bus crashed on a Saskatchewan highway.
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