John Locher / Assocaited Press
Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018 | 10:08 p.m.
There was a bit of a buzz tonight when Marc-Andre Fleury led the Golden Knights onto the ice for warmups at T-Mobile Arena. Fleury had started nine in a row, and another start would give him in two in as many days and three in four days. Surely this would be backup Malcolm Subban’s game, right?
Instead Fleury was his usual self, making 22 saves and leading the Golden Knights to their fifth-straight home win, a 4-2 victory against the Dallas Stars.
“It’s remarkable,” Vegas forward Reilly Smith said. “He’s a calming presence for us back there. He’s been our best player all year and I think that’s what we expect out of him.”
Fleury said he doesn’t dictate when he plays. He tells coach Gerard Gallant and goalie coach Dave Prior when he feels like he can play, but in that regard he’s just like every other player: He goes when his number his called.
Where he’s not like any other is how often his number has been called. Sunday was his NHL-best 17th win of the season in his NHL-high 28th start of the season. Fleury and New Jersey netminder Keith Kinkaid are the only goalies in the league to have all their team’s wins, and Kinkaid has 10.
Fleury is on pace to start 72 games, which would be the most in the NHL by a goalie since Cam Talbot started 73 for the Edmonton Oilers in 2016-17.
“The schedule has been pretty busy lately, maybe that’s why it feels like I’ve been playing lots,” Fleury said. “This year I think I’ve taken a few days off, practices off, can go to the gym, little stretches, stuff like that. See the trainer, try to stay loose, so it hasn’t been too bad.”
The ability to bounce back the way Fleury did was impressive considering that he not only played Saturday, but did not play particularly well. He matched a season-high in goals allowed by surrendering five to the Los Angeles Kings. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise. The previous two times he allowed five this season, he responded by allowing one and zero goals.
Sunday he allowed two, and none at even-strength.
“It was not a good game for anybody on the team (Saturday) and it’s good that we got to put it behind us and move on quickly, come home and get a big win against a good team here,” Fleury said. “It was just a good team game. I think everybody contributes to that, our success.”
The first three back-to-backs of the season, Fleury started the first game and Subban took the second. The last two, Fleury has gone both, with the justification that in both instances the first game was an afternoon contest and the second one was at night to give him more time to rest.
Gallant insists he wants to get Subban into a game. But including Sunday, Fleury has a .920 save percentage and a 2.30 goals-against average in the 10 games since Subban’s last start, and it’s hard to bench that kind of production.
“The guy is giving us a chance to win all the time and he’s playing great,” Gallant said. “We’re not in first place like we were last year and we’re trying to catch teams. When a guy plays that good he’s going to play.
“When you have the best goalie going every night you feel good about that.”