Blackhawks snap losing streak with tight-checking win over Golden Knights
Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves in his Vegas homecoming as the Hawks rallied for a 2-1 victory.
LAS VEGAS — The Blackhawks wanted to win Saturday for Marc-Andre Fleury.
The bouquet of flowers tossed onto the ice at the final horn indicated that mission succeeded.
Fleury saved 30 of 31 shots in his first Vegas homecoming and the defense stiffened late to help the Hawks rally past the Golden Knights, 2-1. The Hawks snapped a six-game losing streak with their first road win since Dec. 9 and first win of any sort since Dec. 15.
“Last game in Arizona, things didn’t go so well,” Fleury said. “We had a good talk after in the locker room and [determined] didn’t matter if it was Vegas or somebody else, we had to bounce back. And we answered the bell. The team played well.”
The Hawks’ effort to make their games more “boring” had completely disappeared the past few weeks, that mantra seemingly forgotten as abruptly as the many before it.
But it returned Saturday. After a furious Vegas push out of the second intermission gate, the Hawks turned on their neutral-zone trap and locked things down, allowing only five shots on goal over game’s final 16 minutes.
“We kept them to the outside, and we forced them to make lateral plays instead of shooting, and we were blocking some shots,” interim coach Derek King said. “Guys were getting in the way, getting in lanes, forcing bad pucks. [In] the physical aspect of it, too, we had guys putting the body up more than we usually do.
“That’s the way we have to play and when we do that we give ourselves a chance.”
The Hawks finished with 35 team hits to 16 for the Knights — Jujhar Khaira alone was credited with 10 — and also blocked 24 of the Knights’ 64 shot attempts.
Fleury then made his biggest save of the night at the perfect time, diving across to his left to rob Evgenii Dadonov with 61 seconds left.
“I came low, and I knew he had some room on top, so I tried to get up there,” Fleury said.
The Hawks also altered the usual narrative in two other beneficial ways. After struggling all season to get offensive production from anyone other than their top stars, Khaira scored his third goal of the season and Riley Stillman his first to flip a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead during the second period.
And after committing an unsightly 80 penalty minutes (and allowing 32 opponent power plays) over their last eight games, they took zero penalties Saturday.
“We talked about that: just stay out of the box with these guys, because they can pick you apart,” King said. “We did a great job.”
Fleury was honored with a brief pre-puck-drop video tribute and announcement, then again with a postgame ovation from the crowd of 18,367.
“The whole time was very special — before the game, on the bench, going through my routine in the empty arena, and in warmups, having so many people close to the glass with signs and my jerseys and stuff,” he said. “It was awesome.”