Instead, former Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner, who Vegas acquired prior to the National Hockey League trade deadline, led the Golden Knights onto the ice to face off against his former team.
“It’s obviously a tough decision when you have two quality starting goaltenders,” Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer told Justin Emerson of the Las Vegas Sun. “It wasn’t what [Fleury] didn’t do, [Fleury] was great. It’s what Robin [Lehner] has done since he has gotten here.”
Despite an early scoring chance by Chicago off the opening faceoff, the Golden Knights and Blackhawks came out slow in the first period. It appeared as if both teams looked more interested in feeling each other out and not making a mistake versus pushing the play.
It took until the second period for things to really get going. Just over seven minutes into the period, Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore broke the scoreless tie. Theodore shot the puck through traffic and beat Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford high-glove side to make it 1-0. William Carrier scored shortly after, putting home a pass from Ryan Reaves to make it 2-0. The Blackhawks challenged for a missed offsides call on that goal but were unsuccessful, giving the Golden Knights a powerplay. Unfortunately for Vegas, the only goal scored on that powerplay came short handed from Blackhawks forward David Kampf, who put home a loose puck in front of Robin Lehner to make it 2-1. The Blackhawks pressed for the tying goal but were unable to find the equalizer. The Vegas defense and Lehner did a good job after that goal of limiting the high danger chances from the Blackhawks. Vegas entered the second intermission with a 2-1 lead.
In Round Robin play, Vegas absolutely dominated the third period. In their three games played they outscored the opposition 8-1, with the only blemish coming late in the third period against Colorado. Game 1 against the Blackhawks was no exception. Reilly Smith opened the scoring just under four minutes into the third period after Corey Crawford failed to completely stop Smith’s shot. Smith scored about five minutes later off a gorgeous feed from Jonathan Marchessault to make the score 4-1. Vegas absolutely dominated puck possession and offensive zone time in the third period. The Blackhawks looked like they were out matched, failing to generate much offense in the period at all. Their best chances came on a late powerplay, but that too proved unsuccessful. They failed to make up the deficit, giving the Golden Knights a 4-1 victory in game 1.
Robin Lehner did not face a ton of high danger chances but came up big when he needed to. Despite issues with his skates and Chicago hitting four posts, Lehner saved 19 of the 20 shots he faced and posted a .950 save percentage. He continued his stretch of stellar play between the pipes for the Golden Knights. The defense in front of him played exceptional as well. They held the potent top-six of the Blackhawks off the score sheet and did not allow them to generate much offense at all in 5 on 5 play.
Vegas will face off against Chicago again on Aug. 13 at 2 p.m.