Chicago Blackhawks' Marc-Andre Fleury welcomed back to Vegas by adoring fans

LAS VEGAS -- Hockey fans in southern Nevada still love Marc-Andre Fleury.

The adoration overflowed Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena, where the 18-year veteran led the Chicago Blackhawks onto the ice for their game against his former team, the Vegas Golden Knights.

Fans lined the end boards, pounded the glass, held up signs and cheered for the man who was the face of the Golden Knights for their first four years in the league. The sold-out crowd then erupted into a frenzy when a one-minute tribute video was played just before puck drop.

Fleury made 31 saves and gave up just one goal in the Blackhawks' 2-1 victory over the Golden Knights. He has now beaten all 32 teams in the NHL.

Fleury said he was glad the tribute video was shown before the game rather than during it, saying it would have been hard to get through the game otherwise.

"It was good to get it out of the way quick," Fleury said. "Obviously, it's just a few images and videos, but a lot of memories come through seeing that. I was really fortunate to have a great time here in Vegas.''

Saturday marked Fleury's first trip back into an arena he dominated during his four years with the Golden Knights. His strong play inside T-Mobile Arena continued Saturday, as he stopped 28 straight shots after Ben Hutton gave Vegas a 1-0 lead early.

Fleury stymied the league's third-highest scoring team to its lowest score in more than two months. It marked just the fourth time this season Vegas has been held to one goal or fewer. It was the Golden Knights' lowest scoring output since being shut out 4-0 in Toronto on Nov. 2.

"I wish there was no goals, [would have] been better,'' Fleury said afterward.

Fleury instantaneously became the face of the Vegas franchise and a fan favorite, long before he led the expansion club to the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season. His dazzling smile and personality and involvement throughout southern Nevada helped stitch himself into the city's athletic fabric alongside the likes of Jerry Tarkanian, Greg Maddux and Andre Agassi.

Last season, Fleury went 26-10-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and six shutouts in 36 starts and won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender. But with the Golden Knights committed to Robin Lehner long term and desperate for salary cap space, Fleury was traded to Chicago on July 27 for Mikael Hakkarainen, a forward prospect they released a month later.

Before Saturday's game, Fleury said returning to face a former team was easier because he has done it before in his career.

"I think it helps that I've been through it; I think it's a little bit of the same anticipation,'' said Fleury, 37, who in December became the third goaltender in NHL history to win 500 games. "It's tough. When I went back to Pittsburgh, I was a little emotional about things, having thoughts and good memories about things and my teammates and stuff like that. I think maybe I'll try to be more -- just try to play hockey.

"It's hard though because I feel like you don't want to get [sidetracked] and get emotional, but then at the same time, it is. It was a great time in my life and I have great memories and made some great friends.''

Fleury's visit brings an end to an emotional week in Las Vegas, as it started Sunday with former Golden Knights Nate Schmidt and Paul Stastny visiting with Winnipeg. Thursday night it was the team's first coach, Gerard Gallant, and fan favorite Ryan Reaves returning with the Rangers.

"What those guys did in year one here will never be replicated, and they deserve all the love and attention they're gonna get for that," Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said.

DeBoer, who coached plenty of games against Fleury during stints with Florida, New Jersey and San Jose, said he was glad he got to spend time on the same bench with the three-time Stanley Cup winner.

"There's a ton of good memories and anytime you coach a Hall of Famer it's always an honor,'' DeBoer added. "As a coach, those are the players you'll tell your grandkids that you had an opportunity to coach. And Flower's on that list.''

The Associated Press contributed to this story.