LAS VEGAS (AP) — It would have been easy for the streaking Vegas Golden Knights to look past the struggling New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
The Rangers had lost three straight games in which they were outscored 18-3, while Vegas had won six in a row and has a Pacific Division showdown coming up Thursday against San Jose.
But veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and forward Jonathan Marchessault made sure the Golden Knights were properly focused.
Fleury made 27 saves, Marchessault scored his third game-winning goal and Vegas beat New York 4-2 for its seventh consecutive victory.
“We knew this team had a few rough nights before coming here. Usually when that happens, teams rise up to the challenge and play hard and play a good game,” said Fleury, who leads the NHL with 25 wins and 39 starts this season. “We had to respect them. Every team is good in the league, every team has speed and can play hard, so you’ve got to respect everybody and I thought we did tonight.”
Fleury earned his 429th career win, eight shy of tying Jacques Plante for eighth place.
Cody Eakin, Brandon Pirri and Ryan Carpenter also scored for the Golden Knights, who once again moved into a first-place tie with Calgary in the Western Conference. Both teams have 58 points.
Marchessault picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated in on a breakaway to beat Alexandar Georgiev top shelf and give the Golden Knights a 3-0 lead late in the second period.
“We definitely need good habits all the time during the game,” Marchessault said. “That last (Rangers) goal was unfortunate. We let them back in the game at 3-1 there, and there’s definitely those two goals we could have taken back and played better defensively. We need to learn from that. Whatever the score is, we need to keep going.”
The Golden Knights, who improved to 15-3-3 at home, are 19-4-3 overall since Nov. 18, when Nate Schmidt returned from a 20-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant once again found himself shuffling lines, as top-line forward Reilly Smith was placed on injured reserve before the game. That pushed second-line wing Max Pacioretty into Smith’s slot and made room on the second line for Pirri, who was recalled from the AHL’s Chicago Wolves on Monday when fourth-line wing William Carrier went on injured reserve with an illness.
“Whoever is playing, we try to play the same team game every night, and that’s what’s really important for our group; when we play that game, we’re a pretty good team,” Gallant said. “There’s a lot of guys who have been in and out of our lineup, and I think we’re getting some chemistry. But the guys are competing hard and playing hard. … It usually takes 30 guys on your roster to make you a good hockey club. And that’s what we’ve been using. We’ve been using a lot of different guys.”
Vegas owns the NHL’s longest active home point streak (10-0-2) since Nov. 23, matching its 12-game home point streak last season.
Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast scored for the Rangers. Georgiev made 27 saves but has allowed nine goals in his last two starts.
New York has been outscored 22-5 during its four-game losing streak.
“We definitely played the style we want to play. I thought there was a lot more pace to our game. I thought we were more competitive,” coach David Quinn said. “One of the things we’ve got to do more of is shoot pucks.”
Though the Rangers have earned at least one point in 10 of their past 13 games against Western Conference opponents, the last three games of their four-game skid have come at Colorado, Arizona and Vegas.
“I thought we played for 60 minutes,” Quinn said. “We didn’t quit. But if we want to win hockey games, then there’s no silver lining.”
NOTES: The Rangers dropped to 5-1-0 on Tuesdays. … New York forward Jimmy Vesey played in his 200th game. … Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist, selected for his fifth All-Star Game, is one appearance from tying Plante for 12th place on the career list with 837.
Rangers: Host the rival New York Islanders on Thursday night.
Golden Knights: Host the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.
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