WASHINGTON (AP) — Robin Lehner took a puck to the mask on a shot from Alex Ovechkin that was so hard it caved in the cage.
He needed to switch to an old helmet, but that did nothing to slow him down.
Lehner stopped all 34 shots he faced for his and the Vegas Golden Knights’ first shutout of the season, a 1-0 victory over the Washington Capitals on Monday night to start a difficult Eastern Conference road trip on a positive note.
“We don’t win tonight unless our goalie’s really good,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “We needed that from Lenny. We wanted to have a good start to this road trip, and obviously if you drop the first one, the next three all look tougher, which is hard to look tougher than they actually are. But it was nice to start with a win, and he was our best player.”
Making his sixth consecutive start, Lehner was at his best during a 5-on-3 penalty kill that lasted 1:57 early in the second period. He turned aside three Washington shots, including the blast from Ovechkin, who was looking for his 30th goal of the season.
“You felt the cage kind of bent in to the cheekbone a little bit,” Lehner said after the 17th shutout of his NHL career and his first since April 16. “I was lucky it wasn’t a little bit harder.”
In his first season as the team’s unquestioned No. 1 goaltender, the 30-year-old Swede also stopped Lars Eller on a short-handed 2-on-1 rush late in the second and got in front of a shot from Conor Sheary with five minutes left in the third. Lehner and the penalty kill were a perfect 5 of 5 on an undisciplined night for Vegas.
“We took too many penalties, which was probably one of the negatives,” DeBoer said. “You don’t want to test it as much as we did tonight. And then your goalie has to be your best penalty killer, and Lenny made a couple huge saves.”
Michael Amadio scored the Golden Knights’ only goal in their second consecutive win after losing their previous three. Defenseman Nicolas Hague, playing his first game since Dec. 28 after missing the past eight with a wrist injury, did the dirty work to create the scoring chance that Amadio finished with a rebound goal in tight.
Without top wingers Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty and still awaiting trade pickup Jack Eichel’s season debut following an artificial disk replacement operation, they notched an important victory before visiting Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay this week.
The Golden Knights did lose forward Nicolas Roy late in the third when he took a puck off his left ankle while standing in front on a power play.
The Capitals lost for the seventh time in their past 10 games and were shut out for the first time this season.
“I don’t think we’re concerned at all,” Sheary said. “We obviously have to figure that out. We have to start stringing some wins together. It’s a long season — it’s 80 games — you’re going to have lulls in your play and wins and losses.”
Vitek Vanecek allowed only Amadio’s goal on 29 shots, and the power play was not able to cash in on several opportunities.
“Same things as our overall play, just a little bit inconsistent,” defenseman Justin Schultz said of the power play. “We are getting some good looks, just not capitalizing. I think we might get a little frustrated from not scoring. We have the players to do it. We just have to stay with it and it will come.”
NOTES: Vegas forward Reilly Smith joined Stone in COVID-19 protocol. Jonas Rondbjerg was recalled to take Smith’s spot in the lineup. … Washington winger T.J. Oshie returned after missing four games with an upper-body injury. Defensemen John Carlson (four games for COVID-19 protocol) and Dmitry Orlov (two-game suspension) were also back for the Capitals. … The game was delayed briefly 6:05 into the second period when a woman in the stands was hit in the right side of the head with a puck that was shot over the glass by Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb. … 2018 Stanley Cup winner Chandler Stephenson got a standing ovation in his first game in Washington since a trade to Vegas in 2019.
Golden Knights: Visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
Capitals: Host the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.
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