Vegas Golden Knights Fall In Marc-Andre Fleury’s Return

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 12: Nate Schmidt #88 and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Vegas Golden Knights defend their goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the game at T-Mobile Arena on December 12, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 12: Nate Schmidt #88 and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Vegas Golden Knights defend their goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the game at T-Mobile Arena on December 12, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Vegas Golden Knights loss in the shootout spoils Marc-Andre Fleury’s return game.

It’s a well-known fact that the Vegas Golden Knights play well against the western conference this season. For the record, The Knights are a combined 16-3-0 against the west this season. However, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows when playing eastern conference teams.

One of the Achilles heels the Golden Knights have had all year is playing against the east. Entering Tuesday’s action, the team is 3-6-1 when playing against eastern conference clubs this year. The Knights play against the opposite conference for five straight games at home so needless to say this is a big stretch.

The Golden Knights finally have Marc-Andre Fleury back in the crease as he got the start against the Carolina Hurricanes. Shea Theodore drew back into the lineup after being healthy scratched against Dallas on Saturday night. Stefan Matteau, Brad Hunt, and Jon Merrill served as the healthy scratches per usual.

The first period began with Fleury having to stand on his head. The Knights looked awful trying to move the puck out of their own end. They only got a few good scoring chances from Theodore and Oscar Lindberg.

The Hurricanes got on the board with one of the flukiest goals you’ll ever see. McNabb was behind the net trying fire the puck out of the zone, but it deflected off of Marcus Kruger’s stick and into the net. The Hurricanes led 1-0 heading into the second period with an 11-6 shot advantage as well.

Entering the game, the Hurricanes have been struggling as of late losing eight of their last ten games. Carolina also played last night against the Anaheim Ducks, so there’s no excuse for the Golden Knights being this flat to start the game.

The middle frame started off with a bang when Deryk Engelland scored his third of the season just 1:07 into the period. David Perron’s slick pass to the point found Engelland who surprisingly sniped it over Cam Ward’s shoulder to tie the game. Unfortunately, the lead went away just three and a half minutes later.

The Knights gave one back when Trevor van Riemsdyk took advantage of the Golden Knights running around in the defensive zone. Fleury made an incredible save on Jeff Skinner but the Golden Knights failed to clear the puck, and van Riemsdyk roofed it over Fleury to give Carolina the one-goal advantage.

Remember when Kruger and van Riemsdyk were Golden Knights players for only a few days? And now they come back to bite their “former” team on the first opportunity they play them. Fortunately, the Knights answered back rather quickly.

Reilly Smith scored his ninth goal of the season thanks to a fantastic outlet pass from Colin Miller. Miller’s pass sprung Smith on the mini-breakaway, and the former 20 goal scorer made no mistake. His goal brought the Knights back even to end the second period.

Like the first period, Fleury was sharp once again in the second. He made timely saves including stops on Skinner on the breakaway and Brock McGinn in close. Fleury showed no ill effects of his concussion during this game and looked like he’s 100% again which is excellent news.

The third and final period started with more big saves from Fleury. The Golden Knights also had to kill not one, but two penalties in the first ten minutes of the third session. Then in the final ten minutes of the third, the Vegas Golden Knights started to push.

Miller had a great chance on a slap shot that Ward made an excellent save on. Lindberg was set up beautifully by Tomas Nosek, but he took the shot wide. And after 60 minutes, nothing was decided, so we went to overtime.

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Overtime once again had its anxious moments, Jonathan Marchessault shot the puck wide on a two on one. Skinner had a great chance to end it, but he couldn’t stuff it past Fleury near the post. Before you knew it, time ran out in overtime, and the game went to shootout.

After two failed attempts from both sides, it was Smith who put the Knights up one with one shooter to go for Carolina. However, McGinn kept the one on one session going with a shot high blocker side on Fleury. In the fifth round of the shootout, the Golden Knights four-game win streak came to an end when Phillip Di Giuseppe sealed the deal in the shootout.

My third star of the game would have to be Reilly Smith. Yes, he scored the big goal to tie the game, but he was one of the few players that played a 200-foot game tonight for the Golden Knights. My second star is Marc-Andre Fleury and for the obvious reason. Despite losing in the shootout, he returned with a vengeance stopping 35 of 37 shots.

He would’ve been my first star, except Cam Ward absolutely stole the spotlight earning his 300th career win. He stopped 22 of 24 plus four more in the shootout leading his team to victory. No doubt he gets my first-star honor for his performance tonight.

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All in all, a tough loss for the Vegas Golden Knights but they earned the point in a hard-fought game. The Golden Knights next game is on Thursday against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Catch Fleury’s first game against his former club with Dave Goucher and Bob Beers at 10 PM ET on AT&T Sportsnet.