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Fleury shines again for Golden Knights against Sharks in Game 6

Makes 28 saves for fourth playoff shutout as Vegas advances to Western Final

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

SAN JOSE -- Who's better than Marc-Andre Fleury right now? Who's having more fun?

The goaltender has been a big reason the Vegas Golden Knights advanced to the Western Conference Final in their inaugural season and made 28 saves in a 3-0 win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the second round at SAP Center on Sunday.

 

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Sharks series coverage]

 

It was his fourth shutout of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and second in a series-clinching game on the road. He made 31 saves when Vegas defeated the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 at Staples Center on April 17 to complete a sweep in the first round.

He has four shutouts in series-clinching games in his NHL career, tying him with Ben Bishop, Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, Curtis Joseph and Jacques Plante for second behind Chris Osgood (five).

"It's a good time," Fleury said. "It's been a tough battle, but it's so rewarding when you win those games."

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm6: Fleury makes 28 saves in Game 6 shutout

Fleury won his second and third Stanley Cup rings with the Pittsburgh Penguins the past two seasons, but spent most of the 2016 playoffs as the backup to Matt Murray and was replaced by Murray in the 2017 Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators. Left unprotected in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, he embraced the chance to play in Vegas.

He turned 33 on Nov. 28 and played better than ever in the regular season. He had a career-low 2.24 goals-against average and career-high .927 save percentage, tying him for first with Antti Raanta of the Arizona Coyotes and second with Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators in those respective categories among goaltenders who played at least 45 games.

If not for the season finale -- in which he allowed six goals on 18 shots in a 7-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on April 7, when Vegas had nothing at stake, rested injured players and worked others back into the lineup -- he would have had a 2.14 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. 

Among goaltenders who have made at least one start in the playoffs, Fleury leads the NHL with a 1.53 goals-against average and .951 save percentage. He has twice as many shutouts as anyone else.

"It's different [in Vegas], but it's still the same goal, still the same game, right?" Fleury said. "I'm having fun right now. We're winning games. We're battling. We have a chance every night. It's fun to play with these guys, too. They always give everything they've got."

Fleury is still the same personality he was in Pittsburgh, where he was a favorite among the fans and his teammates.

The Golden Knights made a bad line change in the first period. Sharks forward Tomas Hertl took a pass at the Vegas blue line and broke in alone. He rang a shot off the crossbar, then threw the puck in front for Sharks center Logan Couture, who fanned on the attempt. After his teammates iced the puck, Fleury rubbed forward Erik Haula and defenseman Brayden McNabb on the head.

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm6: Fleury discusses Vegas' Game 6 win

"He gives us confidence," Haula said. "We try to battle for him. It's hard to explain the feeling in the room. We all want it. We all battled together. We battled for each other. That makes us a strong group."

After Sharks defenseman Brent Burns hit the right post in the third period, Fleury rubbed it with his glove.

"Genie in a bottle?" defenseman Nate Schmidt said. "I don't know. We'll take it, though."

After McNabb dove to poke the puck away from Sharks forward Chris Tierney late in the game, Fleury patted him on the behind with his goal stick as he skated up the ice. McNabb looked back and laughed.

"He's awesome back there," McNabb said. "He's a lot of fun. It's great to see him playing so well. When you make plays, he's always like, 'Great job. Great job. Good work.' I think he was happy I was able to poke it off their stick, and he gave me a little push to get up the ice."

That's Fleury.

"We've got an unbelievable goalie in there," forward James Neal said. "And an unbelievable guy."

 

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