Updated February 22, 2021 - 10:04 pm
Somewhere between Lake Tahoe and Denver, Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer found a blender for his lineup and turned it on puree.
The one spot he didn’t mess with was goaltender, and Marc-Andre Fleury came through again Monday.
Fleury made 34 saves for his third shutout — and second in the past eight days — to help the Knights defeat the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 at Ball Arena in Denver.
“He’s been unbelievable,” winger Jonathan Marchessault said. “He’s been a great leader for everybody and we definitely want to battle for him because he battles for us. It’s been a treat to see him do well.”
Winger Alex Tuch maximized his move to the top line with two goals. Marchessault also scored as part of a three-goal second period, as the Knights won for the first time in franchise history in Denver in five games (1-3-1).
The Knights (11-4-1, 23 points) leaped over St. Louis for first place in the West Division and moved four points ahead of Colorado by earning a split of the four-game series.
The teams don’t meet again until March 25 and 27 in Colorado.
After playing well during the final two periods of Saturday’s outdoor game at Lake Tahoe, the Knights showed the blueprint for how to play against the speedy Avalanche.
Star Nathan MacKinnon was limited to three shots on goal, and the Knights proved they can go toe-to-toe with a fellow heavyweight after fattening their record on the bottom half of the division.
“We wanted to send a message and I thought our guys did that,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I think there was some question after the first three games of the series whether we could (play with Colorado). We were looking for a response that way and I thought we got that.”
Fleury, who blanked the Avalanche in the opener of the series, made his seventh straight start and matched Anaheim’s John Gibson and Semyon Varlamov of the New York Islanders for the league lead in shutouts. It was the 64th of his career, moving Fleury into a tie with Henrik Lundqvist for 16th all time.
The Knights goalie had 15 saves in the third period, including a desperation stop on Joonas Donskoi after a wild sequence with 8:30 remaining. He also was tested late in the first period and stacked his pads to get a piece of Nazem Kadri’s shot from point-blank range with 34 seconds left.
“I think maybe because I was deeper I could get there a little quicker and not have to cover as much distance to get there,” Fleury said. “It gave me a little more time to react and throw the pad in the air.”
DeBoer changed all four forward lines, including a promotion to the first line for Tuch, and the defense pairs to shake up an offense that produced eight goals the past five games.
Following a goalless first period, Tuch came through against the Avalanche’s top-ranked penalty kill when he sliced through the defense and flipped a shot past Philipp Grubauer’s glove at 2:53.
Tuch notched his seventh goal, one behind last season’s total, less than four minutes later when his threw a backhand on net and the rebound went off Colorado defenseman Bowen Byram’s skate, ricocheting into the net.
Marchessault added his sixth goal at 11:06 when he skated down the slot and sent a shot between Grubauer’s legs.
William Karlsson added two assists.
“We definitely weren’t happy with the results of the last couple games,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “I think we were due for a full 60-minute effort. I thought a lot of guys stepped up tonight. We played the whole game pretty solid and even when we weren’t, we had (Fleury) back there standing on his head.”