WINNIPEG — Gerard Gallant isn't fixated on the number of goals Marc-Andre Fleury has given up lately.
The Vegas Golden Knights goaltender stopped 22 shots in a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in Game 1 of the NHL Western Conference final Saturday, but it was the fifth time in the last six games he's allowed three or more goals to get past him.
"Yeah, he's awful," coach Gallant joked about the veteran goalie.
"You watched the goals. You seen the game. Deflection goals. Big shot by (Dustin) Byfuglien. He's played real good hockey for us. He's the best goalie in the playoffs as far as I'm concerned."
Fleury entered the series with four shutouts in the team's 10 playoff games against Los Angeles and San Jose, and sported a .951 save percentage and 1.53 goals against average.
The Golden Knights had dispatched the Sharks in round two last Sunday with a 3-0 shutout, but the roles were reversed against the Jets.
Winnipeg mounted a 3-0 lead by 7:35 of the first period.
Byfuglien's fifth of the season started it off 65 seconds into the period when Mark Scheifele dropped a pass back to him and he sent a one-timer blast past Fleury.
Patrik Laine's power-play goal on a precision pass from Blake Wheeler upped it to 2-0. Joel Armia had a goal count after a Winnipeg coach's challenge of goaltender inference was successful. The puck went off Armia's skate and was ruled heading into the net before he bumped into Fleury.
Fleury didn't quite see things the same way.
"I think the first one I would like to see again, for sure," Fleury said of the Byfuglien goal. "The one that was reviewed, it was questionable, but that's their decision. The other one was a power-play goal so just put it behind and forget about it and move on."
Fleury acknowledged the Jets bring a style his club hasn't faced in the first two rounds.
"I think the other two series, they rely a lot on net fronts and shots from the (defence), putting pucks on nets and crashing the net and stuff," he said. "This team I think can create a little more skills guy around the net. Just got to keep an eye on them."
Scheifele also scored his league-leading 12th goal, Byfuglien added one helper and Wheeler contributed a trio of assists.
Brayden McNabb and William Karlsson beat Connor Hellebuyck, who made 19 saves. Jonathan Marchessault had a pair of assists.
"It wasn't our best," Marchessault said. "Definitely their first period was their best. I've watched them a lot in the playoffs. They played a good first period. They came out hard.
"It definitely gets loud out there. It's fun for the home team, but I think it's fun for us, too. To shut that crowd down would be great. Just have to be ready for it Game 2 (Monday)."
Vegas matched its lowest shots on goal total in the playoffs with 21, but the Jets also blocked 22 shots.
"I thought (Vegas) played a good game and they're a great team over there and we can't expect that every night's going to be like this," Hellebuyck said. "They're going to push back and they're going to fight."
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press