BC-HKN--Canucks-Golden Knights,2nd Ld-Writethru
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gerard Gallant believes his Vegas Golden Knights are playing their best hockey of the season.
After back-to-back shutouts, 15-year veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury certainly might be.
Fleury stopped 19 shots to lead the Golden Knights to a 3-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.
“We think we have a good hockey team,” Gallant said. “There’s only, what, 15 games left in the regular season, so you’ve got to play your best hockey, and I think the last couple of nights has been our best hockey of the year. Fleury’s a guy, he can take any day off he wants besides playing the games. He’s a rested guy, he feels real good, and he’s got lots of jump in his legs. He played a lot of games, but he feels great now.”
Fleury, who leads the league with eight shutouts, 56 starts and 32 wins, recorded his second straight 3-0 blanking after beating Anaheim on the road Friday. He also moved within one victory of tying Jacques Plante for eighth on the NHL’s career wins list.
“The last game was busier and better scoring chances,” Fleury said. “I thought tonight our guys dominated from start to finish. We played very well, played with speed, we had the puck a lot. We controlled the play, you know, D-zone, offensive zone.”
Fleury also earned the 18,303 in attendance free Krispy Kreme doughnuts as part of a promotion that gets fans a free dozen when he gets a shutout at T-Mobile Arena.
Max Pacioretty, Ryan Carpenter and Reilly Smith scored for the Golden Knights, who won their fourth straight — all since acquiring Mark Stone from Ottawa at Monday’s trade deadline.
Though Stone - who leads the NHL with 95 takeaways - still hasn’t found the back of the net, his defensive contribution has been contagious to his linemates. The second line of Stone, Pacioretty and Paul Stastny hasn’t allowed a goal during the four-game win streak.
As a whole, Vegas’ defensive effort kept the Canucks without a shot on goal during a near-11 minute stretch in the first period, and more than 13 minutes in the third period.
“I think our defensive game was outstanding tonight,” Gallant said. “It was probably the best all year. We had a lot of jump today. We played real good hockey and we stayed with it and stayed consistent for 60 minutes of playing defense first and getting a lot of scoring opportunities because of it.”
Vegas improved to 13-5-2 against the tightly contested Pacific Division, and moved seven points behind second-place San Jose, which played Chicago late Sunday.
Vancouver goaltender Jacob Markstrom was the main reason the Canucks lost by only three as he stopped 45 shots. Markstrom, who is tied for 10th in the league in wins (23), dropped to 15-10-5 since Dec. 6 with a save percentage of .926 in that span. Markstrom has allowed five goals on 93 shots in his last two starts.
“I don’t say that a lot, but tonight we were bad, and we’re going to have to be better,” Vancouver coach Travis Green said. “You’ve got to want the puck in this kind of game. I thought we had some guys that weren’t hungry enough.”
Pacioretty took over sole possession of the team lead with his 21st goal of the season 5:42 into the second period to give Vegas a 1-0 lead.
Carpenter made it 2-0 with his first goal since Jan. 12, when he gathered a loose puck at the bottom of the right circle and, from his knees, fired a wrist shot that traced the ice and under Markstrom.
Smith scored the third goal of the second period for Vegas when he got a pass from William Karlsson and paused just long enough to catch Markstrom sliding low to his left, and lifted the puck top shelf.
“Maybe getting Stoner kind of energized our group,” said Carpenter, who recently missed seven games while on the injured list. “We believe in this room that we can make a strong push here at the end of the season. I feel like we’re getting our confidence back, but it’s nice getting those guys in the lineup and any time you start winning games, sometimes it’s just contagious playing that style of hockey. Even in the first (period) when we didn’t have goals, I think we just kind of stuck to the game plan and we’re just bought in right now.”
NOTES: Karlsson is one game shy from his 150th as a member of the Golden Knights. ... With his assist on Pacioretty’s goal, Stastny has a point in 20 of his last 28 games with six goals and 21 assists. ... Alex Edler is two shy of playing in his 800th career game, all with Vancouver. ... An NHL player poll by The Athletic revealed Vegas as the most “fun city to visit on the road,” and the Golden Knights as the “team with the best fans.” ... Vegas, which ranks third in the league with an average of 6:58 in penalty minutes per game, had no penalties for just the second time in franchise history. ... Smith now has a point in nine of his last 12 games (four goals, eight assists) for Vegas.
Vancouver: Hosts Toronto on Wednesday night.
Vegas: Hosts Calgary on Wednesday night.
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