LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt said he missed the gold goalie pads Marc-Andre Fleury was set to sign and let the team auction off for charity. For the past couple of weeks, he had been pushing the veteran goaltender to dust them off.
“Schmidty talked to me about it, so I found them in the closet; there’s (been) a lot of goals scored lately, so I said might as well bring them out and see what they can do,” Fleury said.
All they did was help Fleury get his 60th career shutout as Reilly Smith scored late in the second period, and the Golden Knights beat the New York Islanders 1-0 on Saturday night.
“About time, right?” said Fleury, who improved to 26-11-6 with five shutouts in his career against the Islanders. “I don’t know if it was the gold pads, but I think my teammates played awesome. They had the puck a lot … (and) when they were in our zone they defended well.”
The wins are the third-most against any opponents for Fleury, while the shutouts are tied for second-most.
Fleury’s fourth shutout this season helped Vegas keep pace with Edmonton for second in the Pacific Division with 68 points. However, the Oilers, who beat Florida 4-1 on Saturday, have two games in hand and face the Golden Knights three more times this season.
“I think a lot of guys stepped up defensively; I think we had a lot of key blocked shots, especially on the (penalty-kill), I thought we really limited that,” Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore said. “Things are coming down pretty tight in the standings and guys are really stepping up, guys are getting in the lanes. (Fleury’s) been playing great back there and that’s always nice to have.”
Vegas is now 6-3-2 since coach Pete DeBoer replaced the fired Gerard Gallant on Jan. 15.
Semyon Varlamov finished with 42 saves for the Islanders, who were shut out for the second straight game after being blanked in Nashville 5-0 on Thursday. New York is clinging to third place in the Metropolitan Division, just one point in front of Columbus and Philadelphia.
Until Smith’s goal with 34 seconds left in the second, the most exciting moment took place just 3 seconds into the game when fourth-line bruisers Ross Johnston and Ryan Reaves dropped gloves at the opening puck drop and sent the announced crowd of 18,444 into a frenzy before the first shot on goal.
Johnston and Reaves traded several haymakers to the delight of a sold-out crowd. Reaves said the two agreed to fight specifically because British heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury was at the game.
“He asked me to go, I said, ‘well let me go run somebody first’ and he goes ‘no Fury’s here’ and I was like ‘yeah that’s true, we’ll do it,'” Reaves said. “I like to get one shift in me, but it’s alright. Those are fun ones, especially a big boy like that.”
With Vegas fighting for a playoff spot, the Golden Knights’ motivation exponentially increased after the scoreless and physical first period that included two fights and a combined 25 hits.
The second period didn’t match the physicality, but did include a highlight save when Vegas’ Paul Stastny fired a backhand at what appeared to be a wide-open net, but his shot was stymied by Varlamov, who got his blade over in time to keep the game scoreless until Smith’s 22nd goal of the season gave Vegas momentum for the third period.
After giving up five goals to the St. Louis on Thursday, when the Golden Knights allowed several second and third shots on Malcolm Subban, they did a much better job in keeping New York’s opportunities limited.
“We talked about giving up five even-strength goals last game,” DeBoer said. “We wanted to clean that up. Coming down the stretch, playing playoff hockey, you have to win 1-0, 2-0.”
Vegas, which leads the NHL in shots per game with a nightly average of 34.6, outshot the Islanders 43-19.
“We needed more chances,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “But you’re not going to get any chances when you spend the whole second period in our end.”
NOTES: Vegas rookie Cody Glass returned to the lineup after RW Alex Tuch was listed week-to-week with a lower-body injury. … Fury, who will face Deontay Wilder in a rematch at the MGM Grand Garden next Saturday, cranked the pregame siren. … A random fan chosen from the crowd won $30,000 when he scored five goals from center ice. It was the first time since the Golden Knights joined the NHL a fan took home the top prize.
Islanders: At Arizona on Monday.
Golden Knights: Host Washington on Monday.