VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Every time a puck hits the post behind Marc-Andre Fleury, he later rubs the post to thank it.
So when at least three shots clanked off the iron Sunday — helping Fleury earn his first Blackhawks shutout in a 1-0 win over the Canucks — he wanted to give extra thanks.
“I definitely [got] some help from my posts,” he said, his signature grin spreading ear to ear. “I’d buy them dinner. Maybe [we can put] fresh paint on it, just treat him a bit.”
But the occasional moments of good luck — and Fleury’s impeccable sense of humor — took nothing away from a truly amazing goaltending performance, one that kept alive an otherwise sloppy and sluggish Hawks team through the second half of a back-to-back.
Fleury officially stopped all 40 shots on goal he faced.
“He’s spectacular,” interim coach Derek King said. “We’ve got to clean up some areas to help him out a little better, maybe so he doesn’t have to play lights-out every night, but it’s always nice when he’s on.”
Fleury’s positioning was perfect, helping him stop a few pucks he didn’t even see. His reactions were even better, flashing his glove or blocker or pad to rob practically the entire Canucks roster at one point or another. And he didn’t hesitate to enter scramble mode when necessary, sprawling to cover loose pucks among the chaos.
He said there was never a specific time when he realized he was in the zone. But he clearly was.
“I just take it one shot at a time, right?” he said “[I] try to stop the next one and try to keep the game close. I felt pretty good... Everything went right for me today.”
After starting his Hawks tenure with four disastrous October starts, Fleury has now been terrific over a sample size twice as long — eight starts.
Since Oct. 30 against the Blues, Fleury has saved 256 of 272 shots for a .941 save percentage. Even his season-long save percentage has risen to a respectable .911.
The team performance during the first two periods Sunday was still inexcusably bad. They entered the second intermission being outshot 30-13.
“It was probably one of the uglier wins I’ve been a part of in my career,” Seth Jones said. “We weren’t playing at all how we wanted to play. We weren’t controlling the tempo of the game. We weren’t managing the puck well [or] breaking the puck out well.”
The final 20 minutes were drastically better, though. King called it the best third period they’ve played in his six games as coach — of which the Hawks have won five, albeit never very comfortably.
The Hawks held “onto pucks down low in the offensive zone a lot longer” and produced the one goal they needed when Brandon Hagel tipped in an Erik Gustafsson shot. Defensively, they held the Canucks to just two shots on goal in the frame until the desperate waning minutes, when a crucial penalty kill and a few more Fleury saves preserved the victory.
The Hawks spent much of the night down to five defensemen after Riley Stillman left in the first period and did not return. Stillman injured his left leg after Gustafsson pushed Tyler Motte onto him during a scrum.
Calvin de Haan played Sunday after missing Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Oilers with wrist soreness, while Caleb Jones sat out Sunday to rest his healing wrist.