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Fleury has emotional return, leads Knights to win

Marc-Andre Fleury has enjoyed many big moments during his decorated NHL career.

This one might have been the most emotional.

Fleury made 28 saves in his return to the lineup, and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

It was Fleury’s first game in net since the death of his father, Andre, at age 63 on Nov. 27.

“I got to think about him a bunch,” Fleury said afterward, doing his best to keep his emotions in check. “I tried to keep [the pregame routine] the same. I’ve been doing this for a while, none of that changed too much. But it’s definitely more emotional.”

Fleury, who hadn’t started since a 4-2 loss to Edmonton on Nov. 23, improved to 11-6-5 against Chicago and 69-38-13 in December.

Fleury said he felt the energy before the opening puck drop, when public address announcer Bruce Cusick introduced him to a crowd of 18,319 that gave Fleury a bit more than the typical ovation he’s used to.

“I was away for a while. It’s always nice to get that feeling when I get back on the ice,” Fleury said. “The first game, always a little worried to see how things are going to go, and I want to do well for the team. Took me a few minutes to get going, but the more the game went on, I felt better. The guys in front played very good. I’m just happy we got the win.”

While the Golden Knights outshot Chicago 16-8 in the second, the Blackhawks had more high-danger chances through two periods (8-7). Fleury didn’t look as though he missed any time whatsoever, flashing leather and making highlight-reel saves to thwart every Chicago effort, including back-to-back attempts by Jonathan Toews on the doorstep late in the second.

Center William Karlsson said the Golden Knights knew it was a meaningful game for Fleury.

“Obviously it’s a special game for him, coming back, and I think everyone on the team knew what kind of game it was for him,” Karlsson said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t [finish] the shutout, but he had a great game and the team played pretty well, too.”

Fleury rejoined the team last Thursday, but didn’t play in losses to the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, with Malcolm Subban making the starts. All told, Subban started seven games in Fleury’s absence.

Fleury is 12-6-2 this year with a 2.54 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.

Vegas is in fourth place in the Pacific Division but also three points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks for the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

The Golden Knights play the first of back-to-back road games at St. Louis Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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