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FIRST ROUND

Fleury saves Golden Knights with Game 4 shutout against Sharks

Stops 28 shots to climb all-time playoff list, move Vegas one win from advancing

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- The fans chanted Marc-Andre Fleury's last name as the clock counted down at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday.

"FLEUR-Y! FLEUR-Y! FLEUR-Y!"

The goalie had a 28-save shutout in the Vegas Golden Knights' 5-0 win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 4, giving Vegas a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round and the fans something else.

"I have an important announcement," the emcee said. "DOUGH-NUTS!"

 

[RELATED: Golden Knights shut out Sharks in Game 4 | Full Sharks vs. Golden Knights series coverage]

 

A dozen for everyone with a ticket, again. Fleury said he wouldn't indulge this time, because the Golden Knights were headed to Game 5 at SAP Center on Thursday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, NBCSCA, ATTSN-RM) with a chance to eliminate the Sharks and advance to the second round, but …

"I always love a little Krispy Kreme," Fleury said, smiling.

The frosting on the donut?

The win was Fleury's 78th in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, moving him past Mike Vernon for seventh place all-time. He's two from tying Ken Dryden for sixth.

The shutout was his 15th in the playoffs, tying him with Chris Osgood and Clint Benedict for fourth in history. He's one from tying Curtis Joseph for third.

"I've been very fortunate to play with a lot of good teams and again this year," Fleury said. "It's very humbling to be amongst these guys, guys I grew up watching. It's very cool."

After the first period, the Sharks were outshooting the Golden Knights 18-7 but losing 2-0. After the second, they were outshooting them 26-14 but losing 3-0.

"[Fleury] kept us in it," said forward Max Pacioretty, who had four points (two goals, two assists) Tuesday and has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in four games, tying him with linemate Mark Stone (six goals, four assists) for the League lead. "He's the main reason why we won that game."

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm4: Fleury climbs all-time lists in 5-0 win

Fleury was playing the aggressive style Golden Knights goaltending coach Dave Prior teaches, cutting down angles, putting himself in good positions, finding the puck through traffic. He didn't need to make many athletic saves.

"It just gives our team so much momentum when he can go out there and do those types of things that not a lot of people can do, the saves he makes, the energy he brings," defenseman Nate Schmidt said. "He's laughing and hooting and hollering back there. That's what makes it fun. It gives our guys so much confidence and eases things up as the game goes along."

At the same time, Sharks goalie Martin Jones continued to struggle. He allowed a goal on the first shot he faced, when Pacioretty whipped a shot past his glove and the Golden Knights became the first team in NHL history to score in the opening 90 seconds of four straight periods in the playoffs. He allowed two goals on seven shots in one period.

Then he was pulled for the second time in the series, the fourth time in eight career games at T-Mobile Arena and the sixth time in 17 career starts against the Golden Knights.

"He's got to be better," DeBoer said. "Both our goalies have to be better."

Backup Aaron Dell allowed one goal on seven shots in the second, then two on 13 in the third when the Sharks got frustrated and started taking penalties.

There are other factors: Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, each a winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman, have made mistakes with and without the puck. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic hasn't played since being struck by a shot early in the second period of Game 2.

Center Joe Thornton, the leading active scorer in the NHL, was suspended for Game 4 because of an illegal check to the head of Golden Knights forward Tomas Nosek in Game 3.

Video: Golden Knights continue their high-scoring hot streak

But the bottom line is that the Sharks aren't getting enough saves from their goalies and enough goals from their skaters even when they have carried the play. They have been outscored 16-6 in three straight losses.

It's the second straight year of this.

When the Sharks lost to the Golden Knights in the second round last season, Jones went 2-4 with a 3.13 goals-against average, an .891 save percentage and one shutout. Fleury went 4-2 with a 2.14 GAA, a .938 save percentage and two shutouts.

In this series, Jones is 1-2 with a 5.33 goals-against average and an .838 save percentage. He ranks last in GAA and save percentage among goalies who have played at least 60 minutes in the playoffs. Fleury is 3-1 with a 2.51 GAA, a .920 save percentage and one shutout.

"When you look at the game, you can't put this all on the goalies, because you have to score too," DeBoer said. "So we have to find a way to solve Fleury.

"This isn't all on our goalies. We wouldn't have won tonight, anyway, because we didn't score a goal. We've got to find a way to score, and we've got to get some good goaltending too. I mean, that's their formula, right? That's what's working for them."

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