John Locher / Associated Press
Published Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017 | 8:16 p.m.
Updated Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017 | 9:51 p.m.
After fighting back from two goals down to tie their last preseason game Sunday night at T-Mobile Arena, the Vegas Golden Knights had yet another defensive lapse.
San Jose Sharks winger Joel Ward picked the puck out of a scrum in front of the net and passed it over to Mikkel Boedker, who was staring at a wide-open goalmouth.
As fast as the puck could come off Boedker’s stick, Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury lunged over and deflected it off his blocker glove and out of play.
“I saw him pass it across, and I just tried to get there,” Fleury said. “I knew I was late, but I got over there as quickly as possible and got a piece of it.”
The save was spectacular, but relatively meaningless for a guy who has carried his team to the Stanley Cup Finals on more than one occasion.
Fleury’s best save in a Golden Knights’ uniform was a sign of what’s to come this season as he minds the net of the expansion team that is sure to struggle. The Golden Knights lost to the Sharks, 5-3, finishing the preseason with a 3-4 record and winless at home.
“He’s a world-class goalie, and we’re probably going to have to rely on him heavily this year,” Vegas defenseman Colin Miller said. “But we always know that he’s going to be on.”
Fleury hasn’t looked particularly sharp this preseason, allowing eight goals in the last two games on 55 shots (a save percentage of only 85 percent).
San Jose scored three unanswered goals between the first and second periods. Marcus Sorensen scored on a breakaway, and Chris Tierney scored on a tipped shot in front of the net.
“It’s disappointing,” Fleury said. “At the start our players did a good job, and I wasn’t very busy. But then when they got shots, they scored some goals, so it’s frustrating. It’s good to go through it in the preseason — to battle mentally and stay in the game.”
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant isn’t worried.
“I can’t fault him,” Gallant said. “I thought he was pretty solid overall. He made some real big saves, especially the real big save when the guy had a wide-open net.”
The blocker save seemed to have knocked some of the rust off of Fleury, as he followed it up with two more impressive saves on the ensuing penalty kill.
“That save brought me back into the game a little bit,” Fleury said. “I’m glad I got some shots and was able to make a few saves to keep the game close. Obviously I wanted to win it, but we will learn from it.”
With a roster full of defensemen who enjoy jumping into the offense on occasion, Fleury will face more than a few odd-man rushes this season.
“I don’t really think about turning the puck over and (Fleury) bailing me out,” Miller laughed. “But he’s a great goalie, and we’ll definitely need him.”
Miller scored his second goal of the preseason to tie the game 3-3 near the end of the third period. Vegas’ other goals came from Erik Haula on a first-period breakaway and David Perron in the second period.
The Golden Knights lost three straight games at T-Mobile Arena to wrap up the preseason. Most importantly, the team came out of it relatively unscathed by injuries, and it will open the regular season in Dallas on Friday.
The roster must be cut to 23 by Tuesday, and there are still plenty of questions surrounding the line combinations. One thing they don’t have to worry about is who is between the pipes.
“I’m real confident in (Fleury),” Gallant said. “He’s won three Stanley Cups, and we don’t even need to talk about him because he’s a great goalie.”