DENVER (AP) – Marc-Andre Fleury slid across the goal crease, threw his left pad high into the air and somehow deflected a would-be goal.
That’s his idea of fun. It was the epitome of Colorado’s frustration.
Fleury stopped 34 shots, Alex Tuch scored twice as part of Vegas’ three-goal spree in the second period and the Golden Knights cruised to a 3-0 win over the Avalanche on Monday night.
Over the years, Vegas coach Pete DeBoer has seen his share of spectacular saves made by Fleury – as a rival coach and these days as Fleury’s coach.
Nothing surprises him.
“You look at his resume, and he doesn’t have the numbers and the Stanley Cup championships that he has by accident,” DeBoer said. “There were a couple huge momentum saves, when we’re up 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 that if he lets one in at that point, they grab some momentum. That team can turn one into two or three pretty quickly.
“I thought he was lights-out.”
Fleury earned his 64th career shutout in the finale of the four-game series, with the Knights and Avs each recording two wins.
“We wanted to send a message and I thought our guys did that,” DeBoer said. “Guys were committed right from the start tonight.”
The setting for this one – inside Ball Arena – wasn’t nearly as picturesque as what took place Saturday: an outdoor rink on the 18th fairway of a golf course on the shores of Lake Tahoe, with the Sierra Nevada mountains hovering in the background.
This time, Colorado and Vegas didn’t have to endure an eight-hour break between periods. That’s what happened Saturday due to bad ice conditions, which forced the teams to play well into the night.
Fleury turned in a masterful performance Monday, making one splendid save after another. His 64 shutouts ties him with Henrik Lundqvist for 16th on the career list.
DeBoer juggled his lines, and it provided a spark.
Tuch, playing on the top line, got the Knights rolling early in the second by splitting a pair of defenders for a goal. He added another one 3:21 later when his shot bounced off Philipp Grubauer, then Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram and caromed into the net. Jonathan Marchessault rounded out the scoring in the second.
“I did not love us defensively,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “They won the bulk of the races and the bulk of the battles. We looked sluggish.”
Grubauer made 25 saves for Colorado.
Fleury turned in two exceptional stops to keep it scoreless in the first period. On one, he made a leaping play to block a powerful shot from Nathan MacKinnon with his chest. Moments later, Fleury executed the sliding, left-leg-thrown-into-the-air maneuver to thwart Nazem Kadri’s attempt.
Two of Fleur‘s three shutouts this season have been against Colorado.
“Obviously Fleur’s always going to have a good night and you have to be prepared for that,” Colorado defenseman Cale Makar said. “But I think this one lies on us more than anything.”
The Avalanche wore their reverse retro sweaters for a second straight game. The jerseys are part of the organization’s 25th anniversary season in Denver, with the design based on a version the team wore during its time as the Quebec Nordiques.
“Best in the league in our opinion,” defenseman Devon Toews said of the jerseys. “They look great.”
Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard was removed from the league’s COVID-19 protocols list just in time for Saturday’s outdoor game.
“Good to get some fresh air,” cracked Girard, who had a goal in Lake Tahoe.
Colorado defenseman Dennis Gilbert will be sidelined for at least a month after facial surgery. Gilbert hasn’t played since being injured during a fight with Vegas forward Keegan Kolesar last week. … There’s no timetable on a return for Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson (upper body) or goaltender Pavel Francouz (lower body). … Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (upper body) didn’t make the trip. … Vegas forward Tomas Nosek (COVID-19 protocol related absence) is “progressing,” DeBoer said, but there’s no return date.
Knights: At San Jose on Thursday.
Avalanche: Host Minnesota on Wednesday before heading on the road for four games.
Vegas Golden Knights (10-3-1, second in the West Division) vs. Colorado Avalanche (8-4-1, third in the West Division)
Denver; Monday, 6 p.m. PST
BOTTOM LINE: Colorado hosts Vegas looking to continue its four-game home winning streak.
The Avalanche are 8-4-1 against the rest of their division. Colorado is 10th in the NHL recording 8.7 points per game, averaging 3.2 goals and 5.5 assists.
The Golden Knights are 10-3-1 against the rest of their division. Vegas is ninth in the Nhl averaging 5.6 assists per game, led by Mark Stone with 0.9.
The teams meet for the fourth game in a row. Colorado has won 2 of the 3 games.
TOP PERFORMERS: Cale Makar leads the Avalanche with a plus-nine in 11 games this season. Nathan MacKinnon has eight assists over the last 10 games for Colorado.
Stone leads the Golden Knights with 16 points, scoring four goals and registering 12 assists. Max Pacioretty has 9 points over the last 10 games for Vegas.
LAST 10 GAMES: Avalanche: 6-3-1, averaging 2.9 goals, 5.1 assists, 3.8 penalties and nine penalty minutes while giving up 1.9 goals per game with a .928 save percentage.
Golden Knights: 6-3-1, averaging 2.7 goals, five assists, 3.6 penalties and 8.9 penalty minutes while giving up 2.2 goals per game with a .915 save percentage.
INJURIES: Avalanche: None listed.
Golden Knights: Robin Lehner: out (upper body).