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Stanley Cup Final

Fleury hard on himself despite Golden Knights win in Game 1 of Cup Final

Teammates have goalie's back after he allows four goals to Capitals

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

LAS VEGAS -- A rare thing happened for the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday: Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury needed his teammates to bail him out.

Fleury allowed four goals on 28 shots, including one that he put into the net himself. It was the fourth time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that he allowed as many as four goals (he still hasn't allowed more in a game), but the first time he got a win when doing so.

The Golden Knights twice came back from down a goal, including early in the third period after Fleury kicked the puck into his net, to defeat the Washington Capitals 6-4 and take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.


[RELATED: Golden Knights defeat Capitals in back-and-forth Game 1 Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]


Game 2 is here Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"The guy has bailed us out a million times," Vegas forward James Neal said, "so he deserves it."

Fleury previously allowed four goals this postseason in a double-overtime, 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round, a 4-0 loss to the Sharks in Game 4, and a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in Game 1 of the conference final.

He responded each time with a win the following game and had a combined 2.23 goals-against average and .932 save percentage (seven goals on 103 shots) in those three games.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Fleury shuts down Ovechkin twice

Fleury allowed at least four goals five times in the regular season and responded by going 3-1-1 with a 1.99 GAA and .940 save percentage the following games. That includes a 30-save performance in a 1-0 win in Game 1 of the first round against the Los Angeles Kings after he allowed six goals against the Calgary Flames in his final regular-season game.

Fleury, who arguably is the leader for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, is 13-3 with a 1.81 GAA and .942 save percentage in the postseason.

"He just bounces back," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. "He's such a character guy. He's the first guy to say last night, 'I'm going to be better and I can be better,' but he's been outstanding. We're here because of him, and we know that. We've got a good team, we play a solid game, but Marc-Andre Fleury, he's the backbone of our hockey team.

"He's like our captain back there."

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Fleury denies Oshie's tricky bid

So much so that his teammates refused to let Fleury take any blame for any of the goals, even the one he put in himself. It's almost like they can't bring themselves to pin anything on Fleury because he has been so good for them. Considering that he has been, that mentality is easy to understand.

"I don't think he should be hard on himself at all," defenseman Deryk Engelland said. "It's a tip, couple wide-open tap-ins. I think he shouldn't be hard on himself. We kind of hung him out to dry there on those ones. We just know we can be better for him for the next game."

Gallant had a similar view.

"Four goals sounds like a lot, but I thought he played OK last night, to be honest with you," he said.

Fleury nonetheless was hard on himself, saying it's not ideal for him to give up four even in a win. He especially didn't like the fact that he was responsible for putting in Washington forward Tom Wilson's goal at 1:10 of the third period, the goal that gave the Capitals a 4-3 lead.

"Not much the D zone coverage can do about that," Fleury said.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Wilson credited with go-ahead goal

Fleury agreed that it's great for him that the Golden Knights have proven they can come back quickly after he gives up one by either scoring or connecting a few shifts to change momentum, but that doesn't mean he feels less pressure or easily gets over giving up one.

In fact, that's why he skates to the corner after every goal he allows. He said he mutters "bad words" to himself, tries to analyze what went wrong, and then does his best to quickly get over it to reset for the next shot.

"I just want to stop them all, right?" Fleury said. "It doesn't matter. You can score 10, you still don't want to give up any. That being said, it's fun to play for a team that never quits, that always has a chance to come back in the game."

Video: Nobody has more fun playing hockey than Fleury

That did help Fleury quickly get over his so-so performance in Game 1. It was a win, regardless of how it happened and how many goals he allowed.

The Golden Knights need three more to win the Stanley Cup, and Fleury knows he can play better too.

"He still made big saves," Neal said. "You can look at the ones he let in, the one that got stuck in his pad and he pushed in, and he'll be hard on himself, but we'll battle and do anything for him to get a win."


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