SAN JOSE -- Marc-Andre Fleury, as he has been all season, was there when the Vegas Golden Knights needed him most on Friday.
After giving up three goals to the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 2 in the Western Conference First Round at SAP Center, the goalie denied the Sharks the rest of the way to help spark Vegas to a 5-3 win that evened the best-of-7 series 1-1. Game 3 is set for T-Mobile Arena on Sunday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS, ATTSN-RM, NBCSCA).
The Golden Knights scored three times in the first 6:11 of the game to jump to a 3-0 lead, but San Jose roared back with three goals of its own in a span of 2:09 to make it 3-3 after one period. Fleury made sure the Sharks would not get on the scoreboard again.
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"I thought we had a good first half of the first, but then tough in the second half," Fleury said, "but in the second and third [periods] I thought we played really solid."
He finished with 34 saves on the way to his 76th victory in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, one from tying Mike Vernon for seventh place on the NHL's all-time list. He improved to 35-21 in playoff games following a loss.
Though the Sharks pulled goalie Martin Jones and replaced him with Aaron Dell at 6:39 of the first period, Vegas coach Gerard Gallant remained confident in Fleury, even after he allowed goals by San Jose centers Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton to tie the game.
"I thought they could have had five goals in the first," Gallant said. "A few of the saves he made in the first were unbelievable. They scored those three late, but he didn't have a chance on any of those. He made some great saves, and he was real key for our win tonight."
The road to tie the series wasn't an easy one for Fleury; the Sharks had eight power-play opportunities and converted one.
Vegas scored two shorthanded goals, by defenseman Colin Miller and center William Karlsson. The Golden Knights also blocked 26 shots.
"It's big, especially with a team like that," Fleury said of the blocked shots. "They shoot the puck, always have traffic in front of the net. If you block some, there's no chaos, there's no rebound … it just ends the play quicker."
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Fleury, who finished the regular season tied for fifth in the NHL with 35 wins and was second with eight shutouts, one behind Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets, said his teammates playing well in front of him was the difference.
"We had too many penalties that could have been costly," he said, "but they did great in front of me, helped me out a lot. The guys were blocking shots all night long."
The series shifts to Las Vegas, where Fleury was 7-3 last postseason with a 2.10 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.
"He's the backbone of this team," Vegas forward Max Pacioretty said. "He stepped up there in a couple of kills, made some big saves that were the difference in the game. It wasn't a perfect game, but having [Fleury] back there always gives you the confidence that you can win a game."