PITTSBURGH — One isn’t the loneliest number when it earns two points. Former Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury refused to allow a Penguins score and got a little help from his posts and defensemen in the process. The Penguins (5-3-0) allowed only one goal until William Karlsson scored a shorthanded empty-net goal, then Vegas winger Mark Stone scored another empty netter in the final moments as the Vegas Golden Knights (6-2-0) beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 at PPG Paints Arena Saturday night.
The loss ended the Penguins five-game win streak.
UPDATE: Technically, Jarry was on the ice, although he was near the bench for the third Vegas goal, so he was charged with a goal against. Stick tap to Seth Rorabaugh from the T-R for alerting everyone to that technicality.
The Penguins penalty kill which has been stellar this season faltered early in the second period. Defenseman Erik Gudbranson wasn’t able to play the puck along the wall and the Penguins lost the puck battle at the midwall. The result was a two-on-none in front of the Penguins net. Paul Stastny (4) easily ripped a wrister into the yawning net.
Fleury clowned the Penguins before the game, and during the game, too.
Fleury, who spent the first 13 years of his career with the Penguins, was the difference. After some pregame hijinx which included tangling the mic cables of TV host Dan Potash, Fleury lingered on the ice after warmups as a small prank to long-time teammate and friend Kris Letang, who prefers to be the last player off the ice. Letang took a couple of extra laps before he realized Fleury wasn’t going anywhere, so Letang softly shot a puck towards Fleury, who gloved it to cheers from the crowd.
The goalie is still a fan favorite in Pittsburgh based on crowd reactions. The Penguins 2003 first round draft pick (1st overall) robbed Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist with a sliding pad save. Fans at first groaned at the lost goal, then cheered the save before remembering Fleury was playing for the Penguins opponents.
Fleury also made showy saves on Dominik Simon near the net and a windmill glove save on Sam Lafferty. The Vegas goalie also had to show some love to the post after Penguins defenseman Kris Letang nearly completed a slick misdirection play but his wrist shot from the right-wing circle clanged the post. Winger Zach Aston-Reese also clanged the crossbar seven minutes into the third period.
“You can’t always control the outcome, but you can control your effort and execution. That was all there,” said head coach Mike Sullivan.
Penguins defenseman turned emergency forward Juuso Riikola nearly beat Fleury midway through the third period. On the power play, his right circle shot glanced off Fleury and fluttered toward the far post, but Vegas defenseman John Merrill swatted it away from harm.
Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb did the same on the Penguins’ second consecutive power play midway through the third. Patric Hornqvist defected a fluttering puck past Fleury, but McNabb made his own glove save and the Penguins were stymied again.
Fleury also earned boos as he appeared to intentionally take off his mask as he laid in the crease during a net-front scrum in which he was out of position and the Penguins had the puck. Fleury was hit by his own defenseman so the loose mask was just plausible enough to avoid a penalty.
The Penguins otherwise held Vegas to nine shots in the first 30 minutes of the game. And again dominated Vegas at the beginning of the third period, but they were beaten by Fleury.
Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry allowed only one goal and was otherwise spectacular, too.
Injuries also mounted for the Penguins, too. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin was unexpectedly scratched after warmups and Jack Johnson was inserted into the lineup. Penguins forward Jared McCann was also absent due to injury, which was the second time in three games he was out of the lineup.
More from the locker room.