LAS VEGAS (AP) — Marc-Andre Fleury and Braden Holtby have been two of the hottest goaltenders during the postseason.
Their duel between the pipes looked more like survival in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final as the Vegas Golden Knights outlasted the Washington Capitals, 6-4.
Fleury came into the series with a 1.68 goals-against average for Vegas with Holtby not far behind at 2.04. Giving up nine goals between them seemed unlikely but that’s exactly what happened Monday night as both goalies were screened relentlessly, caught out of position at times and left out to dry on occasion by defensemen trying to keep up with two swarming offenses.
For Washington, scoring against the Golden Knights was taking advantage of Vegas defenders failing to clog the slots and Fleury making his own mistakes.
Brett Connolly’s redirect that went through defenseman Colin Miller’s legs in the first period caught Fleury overcommitting on Michal Kempny’s shot from the point. Less than a minute later, Nicklas Backstrom backhanded a shot past Fleury, who couldn’t recover after sprawling to his right with T.J. Oshie coming around the back of the goal.
Fleury didn’t stand a chance against John Carlson, who scored an easy backhander after a beautiful feed from Oshie, who wrapped a pass around defenseman Shea Theodore across the slot. And while Tom Wilson got credit for Washington’s fourth goal, the puck slid into the net after Fleury kicked it in himself after getting caught under his skate.
“Obviously it’s not what was expected of both of us, or what I want,” said Fleury, who improved to 13-3 in the postseason. “It’s not going to go perfect every night. Sometimes I put in the puck in my net by myself. It happens. It’ll happen again at some point in my career. You just have got to brush it off, forget about it and try to stop the next one.”
Fleury stopped 24 shots and has now allowed four goals in four games in a single postseason for the first time — and he has given up at least four goals five times in 15 postseason games against Washington.
Holtby made 28 saves, but Game 1 was the second time he had allowed five goals this postseason (Vegas got its sixth goal on an empty-netter by Tomas Nosek).
Miller caught Holtby leaning to his right, peeking over Carlson’s shoulder, and got caught with the one-timer that went beneath his glove on the Golden Knights’ first goal. William Karlsson was able to tie the game just before the end of the first period when he grabbed a rebound off the end boards and caught Holtby out of position, after he overcommitted on a Reilly Smith’s shot.
Smith also got a goal thanks to a fortunate rebound from the end boards, after Holtby failed to scoop up Deryk Engelland’s wrist shot and the puck caromed off his pads. Jonathan Marchessault then one-timed it past the goal and off the boards, allowing Engelland to feed Smith in front of the net.
“For me, I thought my puck-handling was not great tonight,” Holtby said. “I wasn’t recognizing the type of forecheck they were having, and I made the wrong decision on a few occasion. That’s just something that you go back, watch the video, see where there’s defaults at times to get the puck back in our team’s hands.”
Rebounds have continued to haunt Holtby, who fell to 12-7 in the playoffs.
Ryan Reaves scored his second goal of the postseason, in as many games, when he smacked a loose puck over the knob of Holtby’s stick, just 1:31 after the Capitals had taken a 4-3 lead in the third period.
Both goalies and their defenses don’t have much time to turn things around. Game 2 is Wednesday night.
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This story has been corrected to show 28 saves for Holtby.