AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
The Colorado Avalanche landed the first punch in the heavyweight showdown against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Colorado defeated its West Division rival 7-1 in Sunday’s Game 1 of their second-round series at Ball Arena. Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Philipp Grubauer led the way for the victors, who now have the early momentum after the two powerhouses split their eight regular-season showdowns.
It was an ugly showing for the Golden Knights, who will try to turn things around and earn a split on the road in Game 2.
Notable Player Stats
- Philipp Grubauer, G, COL: 24-of-25 shots saved
- Nathan MacKinnon, C, COL: 2 goals, 1 assist
- Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL: 2 goals, 1 assist
- Mikko Rantanen, RW, COL: 1 goal, 1 assist
- Cale Makar, D, COL: 1 goal, 3 assists
- William Karlsson, C, VGK: 1 goal
Avalanche Continue to Look Like League’s Best
The Avalanche looked downright unstoppable during their first-round sweep of the St. Louis Blues while winning all four games by three or more goals.
Vegas is a step up in competition, but perhaps the only real question was whether there would be any lingering rust for the high-powered offense and goaltender Grubauer in their first game in a week.
So much for that.
Colorado wasted no time reminding the Knights and the rest of the league just how dominant it can be with goals from Mikko Rantanen and Landeskog in the first period and another from Brandon Saad and MacKinnon in the first five minutes of the second period. Makar assisted on three of those first four goals.
The Avalanche dictated the pace, swarmed to the puck and consistently pushed deep into Vegas’ zone. They appeared to be on a power play even when they weren’t for extended stretches and looked like a team well on its way to a Stanley Cup run.
MacKinnon and Landeskog in particular stood out, as they both found the back of the net again later in the second period after the initial onslaught.
If Colorado continues to play like it did in Sunday’s game, it will cruise through even the formidable Knights into the Western Conference Finals.
Vegas’ Goaltending Decision Doesn’t Pay Off
The Golden Knights made headlines before the puck even dropped when they decided to start Robin Lehner instead of Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes, after the latter played all seven games in the first-round win over the Minnesota Wild.
While Lehner was impressive this season with a 2.29 goals against average in 19 contests, Fleury is the three-time Stanley Cup winner. Lehner’s last game was also on May 10, meaning the visitors had to worry about potential rust as well.
The decision quickly backfired.
Vegas was thoroughly outplayed all over the ice, but Lehner also allowed multiple soft goals when the game was still hanging in the balance. It reached a point where the Knights appeared to shift their focus to Game 2 and simply left the goaltender in the contest like a baseball team would to a starter getting shelled when the bullpen needed rest.
Even when William Karlsson scored in the second period to cut the deficit to 5-1, MacKinnon scored less than three minutes later to make things even worse for Vegas. Then things got ugly when Ryan Reaves was ejected in the final period for a hit on Ryan Graves that led to a nine-minute power play and yet another Colorado goal.
If there’s any silver lining for the Knights, it is the fact Game 2 isn’t until Wednesday.
That will give them plenty of time to regroup and likely shift to Fleury, who will try to swing the momentum in this series during his first action.
Game 2 of the series is Wednesday in Colorado.