LAS VEGAS (AP) On a night when top goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made his long-anticipated return to the Vegas Golden Knights, it was his Carolina counterpart who grabbed the headlines.
Cam Ward earned his 300th career win Tuesday when Phillip Di Giuseppe’s goal in the fifth round of a shootout lifted the Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory over Vegas.
”It’s something I’ve been striving for, for a while, and was very fortunate to get it tonight,” said Ward, whose first career win was also in a shootout. ”I’m just really thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given throughout my entire career, to be able to stay in the same organization for 13 years and get those 300 wins.”
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Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk scored for the Hurricanes in regulation. Ward, who made 22 saves, became the 32nd goalie in NHL history to reach 300 wins.
Deryk Engelland and Reilly Smith scored in the second period for Vegas.
The expansion Golden Knights fell to 7-2 in games that have gone to overtime, while the Hurricanes improved to 4-7.
In his first game back after spending nearly two months on injured reserve, Fleury stopped 35 shots for Vegas. But it was the last one of the night that the 13-year veteran wished he could have back.
”I think I got impatient and lunged forward too much,” Fleury said about Di Giuseppe’s game-winning goal. ”I’ve got to see the replay. The two (shootout) goals were pretty much the same, just on different sides.”
Fleury hadn’t played since Oct. 13, when he sustained a concussion in the second period against Detroit. Though he finished the game, a 6-3 loss, he was placed on injured reserve the next day and missed the next 25 games.
The Golden Knights, however, flourished with Malcolm Subban, Oscar Dansk and Maxime Lagace filling the void and leading the fledgling franchise to a 16-8-1 mark without its No. 1 netminder.
Vegas is in second place in the Pacific Division with 40 points, three behind the Los Angeles Kings
”We got a big point that we probably didn’t deserve, but we found a way,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. ”I’m a firm believer of when you work hard, you compete hard, you’re going to get your breaks. We were flat. We didn’t come out with the same emotion like we usually do. It was one of those games where we didn’t play our best hockey.”
Carolina opened the scoring when Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb attempted to clear from behind the net. The puck bounced off the shaft of Kruger’s stick, then his knee and the bottom of Fleury’s skate. It was Kruger’s first goal of the season.
”We haven’t had many of those,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. ”It was obviously a bizarre-type play and an unfortunate bounce for them, but a good bounce for us. We were due to get a bounce and we got one here tonight.”
The Golden Knights tied it a minute into the second period when Engelland’s wrist shot from the right point beat Ward to the upper left corner.
The Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead when van Riemsdyk’s wrist shot made its way through traffic and past Fleury. It was van Riemsdyk’s first goal of the season.
Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller sent a beautiful stretch pass through Carolina’s defense to Smith, who beat Ward to tie it 2-all at 12:48 of the second.
NOTES: It was the fifth stop on Carolina’s six-game road swing, the team’s longest of the season. The 11-day trip will end up spanning 7,500 miles. … Carolina has outshot its opponent in 24 of 30 games. … Vegas came in ranked third in the NHL in goals per game with 3.48 and sixth in total goals with 101.
Hurricanes: At the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.
Golden Knights: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.
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