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Knights on Ice — 24 Square Feet Become a Work of Art
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Dateline: Las Vegas, NV
Tuesday, March 16, 2021

 

The dimensions of an NHL net are 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall, which is 24 square feet. Last night, there was a work of art, a Picasso if you will allow me some artistic interpretation, at both ends of the ice. With Marc-Andre Fleury in his 24 square feet, it’s not unusual for a spectacular piece of art to be on display. But it’s usually a cold day in Vegas (it was 39 degrees last night) if I’m describing a work of art that involves a goaltender from the San Jose Sharks. Martin Jones, who has been the equivalent of a pinata for the VGK, was guarding the 24. It was Devan Dubnyk, who along with Fleury, put on a goaltending clinic for those who watched, including the lucky 3,473 fans allowed into T-Mobile last night for a 2-1 VGK victory.

Dubnyk lost his starting goaltending job in Minnesota last season when he was forced to take some time away from the game to care for his wife’s medical emergency. Minnesota traded him to the San Jose Sharks for a 5th round pick in the 2022 draft. This is starting to look like a steal for the San Jose Sharks.

The other 17,000 square feet of the ice (200 X 85) was hardly a work of art, especially for the VGK in the first period. Mark Stone, who doesn’t mince words, said, “Tonight wasn’t a Picasso. We had a soft start, but we were able to buckle down and get things in the right direction.”

In Minnesota, Stone called the team’s performance “trash.” His team responded with 2 victories in St. Louis where they’d never won before. I wonder what he said to the team after their first period, because they responded again. Fleury perfectly defended the 24 square feet until his 18 teammates found their legs for the final 40 minutes.

Stone is the perfect captain for a team that didn’t have or need one in their first 3 years. He wears his heart and soul proudly on his sleeve for the VGK, and his celebrations when he scores are classic. He loves to play hockey and loves to score and lately that’s all he’s been doing, racking up 16 points in his last 8 games. He has 6 goals and 10 assists, including 6 GWG, so far this season, which ties his career high from the 2014-2015 season in which he played in 80 games. His 6 game winners this season are in just 25 games. He’s scored in every game he has played in since March 1.

The first game back after a 6-game road trip is always a problem for hockey teams. The VGK traveled through multiple time zones and lost additional sleep time with Sunday’s Daylight Savings Time adjustments. This was seen in the first 20 minutes of last night’s game

Goals scored early and late in a period cause momentum changes. Stone’s 10th goal of the season occurred just 62 seconds into the 3rd period. That was huge, especially with the way Dubnyk was playing. It was the 15th goal that the VGK have scored in the first 2 minutes of a period this season, which leads the NHL.

Even though Vegas was 12-0 when leading after 2 periods coming into last night’s game, the final result was still up for grabs. Fleury stopped 2 clear breakaways last night, but one was a Picasso and it was on the most hated man in Las Vegas, Evander Kane. Kane was headed toward Fleury with nary a VGK player in sight. But he made a crucial error, dropping his head to look down at the puck. Seeing that, Fleury moved forward, knowing full well that Kane wouldn’t see the impending poke check, which knocked the puck off Kane’s stick.

When Pete DeBoer was asked about Fleury’s poke check on Kane, with tongue in cheek, he said, “I’ve seen that move before — from the other bench.”

Max Pacioretty said, “That was sick. That dude is just the man.”

It’s refreshing to hear grown men talking like young boys on a lake or in someone’s flooded backyard playing a sport they love.

Fleury has started 16 games of the VGK’s last 17 games. He has 11 wins during this span. Last night he stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced.

Vegas is 4-0 vs. San Jose this season and 13-1-3 since the 2017-2018 inaugural season.

Even though the line of Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith didn’t score last night, it wasn’t for a lack of trying; they had 25 shot attempts at Dubnyk. Marchessault was seen talking to himself after he was stoned by Dubnyk from close range twice on back-to-back shots. Alex Tuch also had a conversation with himself after Dubnyk stoned him.

The combo of Stone and Pacioretty made the most of their limited attempts, along with Cody Glass who was playing on the top line after Chandler Stephenson was a late scratch. They had only 7 attempted shots and scored twice.

With the slow start by Vegas in the first period, they were lucky to be ahead 1-0 as they only had 2 shots on Dubnyk in the first 13 minutes of the game. Fortunately for Vegas, one of the shots was off Max Pacioretty’s stick just 7 seconds into a power play, the first PPG since Reilly Smith’s OT winning power play goal on Friday March 12.
I have 4 Stars of the Game. It would be unjust not to include Devan Dubnyk, who stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced. He kept the Sharks in it right till the very end when they had a 6-on-4 with Pacioretty in the penalty box and Dubnyk on the bench for the extra skater.

1) Marc-Andre Fleury (who protected the 24 square feet until the team’s legs arrived in the 2nd period)
2) Mark Stone (game-winning and the primary assist on Pacioretty’s PPG)
3) Max Pacioretty (1 PPG, 1A)
4) Devan

Next game is tomorrow against the Sharks at T-Mobile at 7 p.m. Pacific Time

If you like what you’re reading, please check out the podcast I do with Eddie Rivkin on YouTube. It’s called “Hockey Nights In Vegas.” If you’ve already subscribed, we thank you. If not, it’s free and you’ll help us promote hockey in Las Vegas.

Your comments and opinions are welcome here at Las Vegas Advisor or you may contact me directly at [email protected] or on my Facebook page or the Facebook page of Vegas Hockey Guy or on Twitter @TheRealJoePane.

One other note: If you’re reading this blog from Facebook or Twitter and would like to access it earlier in the morning before I share it on social media, it’s usually published by 8 a.m. the morning after a game on LasVegasAdvisor.com. What better way is there to enjoy your morning coffee than reading my take on last night’s VGK game?

Dubnyk’s save on Tuch

Pacioretty’s power play goal

Stone’s winning goal

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