Two things that have occurred with great frequency through the first quarter of this NHL season: Marc-Andre Fleury making stunning saves and the Toronto Maple Leafs losing hockey games in incredibly frustrating fashion. On Tuesday night in Las Vegas, those two common things came together for one spectacular moment.
With Vegas holding a 3-2 lead late in the third period of the Golden Knights-Leafs game at T-Mobile Arena, Fleury made arguably his best save of the season — and quite possibly the best save of the NHL season — when he robbed a Nic Petan backhander that very likely would have tied the game for Toronto.
After an initial wrist shot from Ilya Mikheyev was ripped off the crossbar, Fleury was caught out of position as the puck tumbled to Petan’s stick in the opposite circle. With a wide open net to shoot at, Petan put the puck on net as quickly as possible. It still wasn’t quick enough, as Fleury dove back across the crease and made a spectacular save with the glove.
The save was so good that it basically broke the scoreboard operator on the Golden Knights broadcast. The scoreboard overlay gave the Leafs credit for the goal, then gave them credit for two goals before eventually going back to the correct 3-2 scoreline. It’s hard to blame them for assuming that one went in.
Here’s another look, this time from ice level:
That’s one of the best saves you’ll see all year regardless of situation, but this one is made just a little bit sweeter knowing the clutch context. Fleury’s save helped the Golden Knights preserve their lead and they went on to add an empty-netter in the final minutes, sealing a 4-2 win.
For the Maple Leafs, it was just the latest gut-punch in a season full of gut-punches so far. Tuesday’s defeat in Vegas gave the Leafs their sixth straight loss and dropped them to 26th in the NHL in win percentage.