LAS VEGAS (AP) — Max Pacioretty scored early in the second period, Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Colorado Avalanche 1-0 on Sunday.
Vegas, which improved to 5-1-0 since returning from a pause due to COVID-19 protocols, leapfrogged the St. Louis Blues to reclaim first place in the West Division. The Golden Knights are one point ahead of St. Louis with 21.
Vegas was playing on the second of back-to-back days after a 3-1 win at San Jose on Saturday.
Colorado played for the first time in nearly two weeks after its schedule was paused due to coronavirus protocols.
Fleury, who has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of his eight starts this season, improved to 12-5-2 lifetime against the Avalanche.
Colorado netminder Philipp Grubauer, who had played nine of Colorado’s first 11 games, didn’t appear to be affected by the team’s pause. He was sharp in making 23 saves.
His only glitch came early in the second period, when Zach Whitecloud sent a long pass to Pacioretty, who gathered the puck, raced to the top of the right circle and fired a wrist shot to Grubauer’s short side, just under his glove.
It was all Vegas would need. Fleury completed his second shutout of the season and the 63rd of his career, moving him within one of Henrik Lundqvist for 16th on the career list.
Colorado’s shutdown began after playing Minnesota on Feb. 3 when five Wild players went onto the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. Avalanche forward Tyson Jost, who played all three games against the Wild, went on the list Feb. 3, captain Gabriel Landeskog was added the following day, and defenseman Samuel Girard joined the list Feb. 7. Colorado missed five games during its COVID-19 stoppage.
The Golden Knights, who were paused earlier this season, were forced to deal with a second COVID-19 situation Tuesday, when forward Tomas Nosek was pulled from the middle of a game against Anaheim when the team learned he tested positive. Vegas didn’t practice Wednesday but did play its second game against the Ducks, as no other Golden Knights were added to the list and haven’t been since.
The teams continue their four-game set in Las Vegas on Tuesday, before playing the third of four games at Lake Tahoe on Feb. 20 and the finale in Denver on Feb. 22.
PRE GAME: Marc-Andre Fleury in net for Knights for the fourth straight game. Philipp Grubauer for the Colorado Avalanche.
FIRST PERIOD: KNIGHTS 0, AVALANCHE 0 after one period. Shots on goal: Knights 9, Avalanche 9.
SECOND PERIOD: The Knights leading scorer, Max Pacioretty (7) scores early in the period. Zack Whitecloud (2) with the assist. KNIGHTS 1, AVALANCHE 0. 1:38 into period.
KNIGHTS 1, AVALANCHE 0 after two periods. SHOTS ON GOAL: Avalanche 20, Knights 18.
THIRD PERIOD: KNIGHTS 1, AVALANCE 0 final. SHOTS ON GOAL: Avalanche 30, Knights 24
Marc-Andre Fleury with his 63rd career shutout, 17th all-time
This is the first of four games between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche. NEXT: Knights vs. Avs Tuesday 7 p.m. T-Mobile Arena.
Colorado Avalanche (7-3-1, third in the West Division) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (9-2-1, second in the West Division)
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada; Sunday, 4 p.m. PST
BOTTOM LINE: West Division foes Vegas and Colorado face off.
The Golden Knights are 9-2-1 against opponents from the West Division. Vegas ranks fifth in the league averaging 6.1 assists per game, led by Mark Stone with 1.0.
The Avalanche are 7-3-1 against division opponents. Colorado is sixth in the NHL averaging 6.0 assists per game, led by Nathan MacKinnon with 1.2.
The matchup Sunday is the first meeting of the season for the two teams.
TOP PERFORMERS: Alec Martinez leads the Golden Knights with a plus-10 in 12 games this season. Chandler Stephenson has five goals and three assists over the last 10 games for Vegas.
Mikko Rantanen leads the Avalanche with seven goals and has 10 points. Joonas Donskoi has five goals and three assists over the last 10 games for Colorado.
LAST 10 GAMES: Golden Knights: 7-2-1, averaging 3.3 goals, 6.1 assists, four penalties and 9.4 penalty minutes while giving up 2.3 goals per game with a .911 save percentage.
Avalanche: 7-2-1, averaging 3.7 goals, 6.4 assists, four penalties and 9.1 penalty minutes while allowing 1.8 goals per game with a .930 save percentage.
INJURIES: Golden Knights: Robin Lehner: out (upper body), Shea Theodore: day to day (upper body). Brayden McNabb
Avalanche: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare: out (knee), Tyson Jost: out (covid protocol), Matt Calvert: out (upper body), Gabriel Landeskog: out (health and safety protocols).