If you love great goaltending, then you would have been smitten with Valentine’s Day in Las Vegas.
Marc-Andre Fleury and Philipp Grubauer combined for 53 saves on Sunday, but Fleury stopped every shot he faced to lead the Vegas Golden Knights to a 1-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Colorado hadn’t played since a gritty 2-1 win over Minnesota on Feb. 2. COVID-19 protocol locked them down until Sunday’s game. But the rust wasn’t there. The Avalanche just couldn’t solve Fleury.
Fleury stopped 30 shots for his second shutout of the season. The Vegas goalie got a rare start on back-to-back days. He stopped 24 shots in a 3-1 win in San Jose on Saturday and looked like he went straight to the rink from the airport on Sunday.
Grubauer was almost every bit as good, stopping 23 shots, but gave up a goal to Max Pacioretty on a great shot from the right circle early in the second period.
Grubauer has arguably been Colorado’s best player through the first dozen games of the season. Despite the loss, he’s now 7-3 on the campaign, with a .937 save percentage and a 1.61 goals-against average. Both of those numbers land him in the top three in the NHL.
He’s also been the driving force behind the NHL’s best penalty kill. Colorado has been sparkling with a man down, giving up just four goals on 42 short-handed attempts. The 90.5% easily leads the NHL. Boston is second at 88%.
Injuries Still Hamper Avs
The hiatus allowed Nathan MacKinnon and Devon Toews to return from injury, but Colorado was still without other vital pieces.
The Avalanche were missing captain Gabrial Landeskog, defensive standout Samuel Girard and energy line linchpin Tyson Jost – who were all out on the COVID list. Cale Makar also missed Sunday’s game and is listed day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Jayson Megna made his season debut for the Avs in the loss, and that’s been a trend for Colorado. Including Sunday, at least one player has made their season debut for the Avalanche in six of the last seven games. Those players are Kiefer Sherwood, Logan O’Connor, Jacob MacDonald, Sheldon Dries and Megna.
Despite the roster turnover from injuries or COVID, the organization’s depth has been on display. O’Connor has a couple of goals, and Sherwood has a couple of assists. MacDonald has been a solid two-way contributor, too, racking up nine shots on goal in his three games.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also returned for Colorado after missing the last three games. He was a big reason for keeping Vegas star Mark Stone in check, had a great scoring chance and had a couple of hits in 12:12 of ice time.
MacKinnon’s Goal Slump Continues
Points haven’t been a problem for MacKinnon this season, but finding the back of the net has been.
MacKinnon hasn’t scored a goal since late in the first period against the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 21, and 482:33 has ticked off the clock since his last goal. The seven-game stretch without a goal matches his longest stretch of last season.
MacKinnon had four shots on goal on Sunday, leading the team. However, Fleury was a major reason the goalless streak continued. MacKinnon got stuffed twice by Fleury from his patented spot in the high slot, and the Vegas goalie also stopped a great chance in the third.
Of course, MacKinnon’s impact comes from more than just goals. His 22:34 of ice time was third on the team behind Toews (25:56) and Bowen Byram (23:07). He also had a hit and a blocked shot. He’s the Avs’ leading scorer with 14 points and is amongst the NHL leaders with 12 assists.
Colorado will get another chance to solve Fleury when the Avalanche takes on Vegas again on Tuesday. The teams will play four consecutive games against each other, as the Golden Knights come to Denver for a pair next weekend.
Lifelong storyteller and experienced hockey reporter that has covered everything from major juniors to the NHL. Worked for various newspapers across Minnesota and North Dakota, and now covering the Colorado Avalanche for THW.