LAS VEGAS -- Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban was in a car with several of his teammates heading to the rink on Sunday. He was preparing to face his former team, the Boston Bruins.
There was a lot at stake. Subban was making his first start for the Golden Knights, thrust into the spotlight because of an injury to Marc-Andre Fleury, their No. 1 goaltender and face of the franchise. Also in the car was forward Alex Tuch, who, like Subban, was poised to make his Golden Knights debut.
It was a storybook finish for each of them. Subban, who had a mere 62 minutes of previous NHL experience, made 21 saves in defeating the Bruins 3-1 at T-Mobile Arena. Tuch scored his first NHL goal, at 14:38 of the second period, and assisted on Vadim Shipachyov's first NHL goal 3:08 later.
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"It felt good," Subban said. "Really good. Honestly, you have no idea, after the last couple years and stuff."
Subban, 23, was selected in the first round (No. 24) of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Bruins, and his career had been seemingly stalled with Providence in the American Hockey League.
The Golden Knights, with an eye fixed on the future, claimed Subban on Oct. 3 after the Bruins placed him on waivers. Their plan was to ease Subban into the fray, letting him work with goaltending coach David Prior.
But the future became the present when Fleury sustained a concussion after taking a knee to the head against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. The Golden Knights placed Fleury on injured reserve Sunday, along with forwards Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault.
This paved the way to recall Tuch and goaltender Maxime Lagace from Chicago of the American Hockey League, and Shipachov, who had been working out on his own in Las Vegas with permission from the Golden Knights.
Subban, the younger brother of Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban, had played two games with the Bruins. His NHL debut was on Feb. 20, 2015, against the St. Louis Blues and didn't go smoothly; he allowed three goals on three shots during the second period.
On Sunday, he was 30 seconds from a shutout against his former team. Bruins forward David Pastrnak was credited with the goal, but the puck went off Golden Knights forward William Karlsson.
"I thought (Brad Marchand) was going to tuck it short side," Subban said. "Then he went around the net. I'm like, 'Oh boy, I'm in a tough spot now.'"
There were long spells of inactivity, however. Subban chuckled when he was asked if it was hard to stay focused when he wasn't facing a lot of shots.
"Not in a game like this," he said. "Maybe for a guy like (Bruins goaltender) Tuukka (Rask), a veteran guy. For me, you've got to find a way. You want to make it work. You want to get your first win."
Video: BOS@VGK: Subban robs Marchand with big pad save
The Golden Knights (4-1-0) praised Subban's poise.
"I thought he was unbelievable," Tuch said. "I rode to the rink with him in the car and we were joking around and it was like, 'Are you excited to play against your old team?' He was pretty excited. I had some (Boston) friends over there too. I know (Charlie) McAvoy and (Anders) Bjork. It was fun to play against those guys again.
"He's a really good goalie. I think he played confident. Calm, cool and collected. He made a lot of good saves out there."
Prior hasn't had much time to work with Subban, but it is clear they have made strides in a very short period.
"It's often just tweaking that makes the difference," Prior said. "We're trying to tweak his game to be more fortunate. There's no secrets.
"A more patient game. A little calmer. Simplify his game a little and take advantage of what he does well. I think he will be the first to agree he benefited by a real good performance from his teammates. Boston playing [Saturday] night helped."
The goaltending coach had worried about this particular game for Subban.
Specifically, the opponent.
"I was trying to avoid this game for him," Prior said. "I thought he might get a little revved up, too much so and want to make a statement. But he handled it really well."