EDMONTON, Alberta (AP)Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots and the Vegas Golden Knights held off the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 on Saturday night to take a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.
William Karlsson and Patrick Brown scored for the Golden Knights. Vegas is 6-0 in the postseason, having also won all three of its round-robin games in the preliminary round to take the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Fleury had nine saves in the first, seven in the second and 10 in the third.
”He had an incredible game,” Karlsson said. ”He almost stole this game for us. Huge saves in the first and also in the third — two periods I thought Chicago was better than us.
Only four teams out of 190 times has as a team come back to win a seven-game series after losing the first three. The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs did it against Detroit in the Cup final, the 1975 Islanders against Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals, 2010 Flyers against Boston in the quarterfinals, and 2014 Los Angeles Kings against San Jose in the first round.
With Games 3 and 4 on back-to-back nights, Vegas coach Peter DeBoer opted to start Fleury instead of Robin Lehner, who is 4-0 with 2.39 goals-against average this postseason.
Fleury said he wasn’t thinking about trying to make a good impression to take playing time away from Lehner. Rather, he just wanted to get a win.
”I don’t feel I’m against Robin, I just feel I need to beat the Blackhawks and that’s were my focus is at,” Fleury said. ”I’m just trying to do my best to help my team get a win here and be 3-zip in the series.”
While DeBoer said his plan all along was to play both goalies on a back-to-back, he wouldn’t confirm Lehner will start Game 4.
Olli Maatta scored in the third period for Chicago, and Corey Crawford had 24 saves.
”We’re down three games and tomorrow is a must win to stay alive,” Chicago’s Jonathan Toews said. ”That’s the reality and that’s the way we look at it. We did a lot of good things. We were working for the bounces, pucks were laying around. We just didn’t find the back of the net. Tomorrow we just have o believe that we will.”
Trailing 2-0, the Blackhawks turned up the pressure in the third period, and Maatta cut the deficit in half at 6:21 as the defenseman came up the left side and beat his former Penguins teammate Fleury.
Jonathan Marchessault had a chance to restore the two-goal margin with 8 1/2 minutes left, but Crawford stopped his try from the left side. Marchessault skated in across the front to try to knock in the rebound but Crawford stopped that, too, and smothered the puck.
Chicago pulled Crawford for an extra skater with 1:45 to go, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
”The only choice we have right now is not to be frustrated and focus on tomorrow,” Toews said. ”If we keep doing a lot of the same things, we still have that belief that we can get a win and we’ll go from there.”
Alex DeBrincat got a pass from Kane, skated in on the left side and missed wide left on a backhander 1:23 into the second period.
Crawford gloved a one-timer from straightaway by Nate Schmidt on a Vegas power play at 8:55 to keep it a one-goal game.
Fleury stopped a try by DeBrincat with 8:48 left in the period and then denied his try 25 seconds later.
Brown, appearing in his first career playoff game, made it 2-0 as he slid in knocked the rebound of a shot by Alex Tuch past Crawford with 4:37 to go in the middle period.
After that goal, the Golden Knights didn’t get another shot on goal for the next 14 1/2 minutes.
”In the third we kind of laid off and let them skate through the neutral zone with the puck and speed,” Karlsson said. ”We got to be more aggressive up the ice and stop them higher up on the ice. I’m not too happy about the way we played in the third and let them back in the game.”
Karlsson got Vegas on the scoreboard with a short-handed goal 4:12 into the game. After a turnover by Chicago’s Duncan Keith, Karlsson got a pass from Mark Stone, skated in on Crawford and beat him with a backhander from the right side top shelf.
Kirby Dach had a short-handed breakaway about 7 minutes in, but Fleury slid and made a right pad save. Fleury also denied a shot from the left point on a Chicago power play with 4:10 left in the opening period. Kane hit the right post with 1:53 to go with an open net from the right side as Fleury was out of position.
NOTES: Vegas C Paul Stastny didn’t participate in pregame warmups and sat out. … Chicago went 0 for 4 on the power play and is 1 for 8 in the series. Vegas went 0 for 3 to fall to 0 for 6.