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Stanley Cup Final

Golden Knights leaning on Fleury, Neal heading into Stanley Cup Final

Only two players with experience in championship round entering series against Capitals

by Danny Webster / NHL.com Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights have 19 games of Stanley Cup Final experience on their active roster.

All of it comes from two players: goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (13 games) and forward James Neal (six).

The Golden Knights have been looking to Fleury and Neal throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will continue to do so heading into Game 1 of the Cup Final against the Washington Capitals here Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

 

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

 

"The young guys are good like that," Neal, 30, said Saturday after practice. "We can say things to help them out in other ways. For us, it's about leading by example with your work ethic and demeanor and the way you carry yourselves throughout the game and the ups and downs in a series. I think we've done a good job of that so far."

Neal, in his 10th NHL season, played all six of his Cup Final games with the Nashville Predators last season, losing in six games to Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Fleury, 33, hasn't started a Cup Final game since June 12, 2009, when the Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Game 7 for the first of his three NHL championships. He played all six games when Pittsburgh lost to Detroit in the 2008 Cup Final, but he was Matt Murray's backup when the Penguins won the Cup in 2016 and 2017.

Video: VGK@WPG, Gm5: Fleury makes pad save on bouncing puck

Although it's been a long time since Fleury has played this deep in the postseason, he said he's willing to provide whatever advice he can to whoever asks, especially since chances like this don't come around often.

"It's fun to share stories," said Fleury, who is in his 14th NHL season. "It's what we've all played for."

It will be Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant's first time in the Cup Final as a player or coach.

"The more experience you got, the better off you are, for sure," said Gallant, a forward in the NHL from 1984-95 who is in his seventh season as a coach in the League. "[Fleury and Neal] have been there, they've done that. It's important for our group. They help our young players out. It's all about team this time of the year, and it's really important for our guys."

Vegas forward William Karlsson said he expects Fleury and Neal to lead by example in the high-pressure environment.

"I think they're just, with their experience and presence, they stay calm," Karlsson said. "I don't really ask them too much. Just having them around has a calming feeling. That's enough for me."

Video: WPG@VGK, Gm3: Neal taps home Haula's sweet pass

Though he was part of Pittsburgh's back-to-back championships the past two seasons, Fleury said more than anything he wants to help his teammates understand that runs to the Cup Final don't happen every season.

"I just want to win. We're so close. I want to win," said Fleury, who is 12-3 in the playoffs with a 1.68 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage, the best in a single postseason in NHL history among goalies who played at least 12 games. "I want to be a part of this team winning the Cup. That's all that matters to me."

Neal played the entire 2017 Cup Final with a broken right hand and had one goal and one assist in the series. He said he's not sure how much different it would have gone if not for the injury, but the loss motivates him.

"A whole life of working for this opportunity, you just try to take advantage of it," Neal said. "I've been there before. Having some experience from the [Final] and being really close, just want to win it that much more."

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