DENVER | Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog each scored twice and the well-rested Colorado Avalanche made quick work of Vegas with their speed, beating the Golden Knights 7-1 on Sunday night in a skirmish-filled Game 1 of their second-round playoff series.
What began as Colorado putting on a passing clinic — racing out to a 5-0 lead — spiraled into one fight after another. There were a total of 79 penalty minutes between the teams, including four 10-minute misconduct calls and a match penalty on Vegas’ Ryan Reaves, who was later given an attempt-to-injure penalty.
Young defenseman Cale Makar added a goal and three assists, while Brandon Saad and Mikko Rantanen also scored for the Avalanche, who had an extra burst after nearly a week off following a four-game sweep of St. Louis in round one.
“Everyone took it serious, the break. Wasn’t a vacation,” MacKinnon said. “Everyone was ready to go and we had a great start.”
William Karlsson scored the lone goal for Vegas. Robin Lehner was a surprise starter in net and stopped 30 shots in his first appearance of these playoffs. He stepped in for Marc-Andre Fleury, who was in net for all seven games as the Golden Knights eliminated Minnesota on Friday.
“You’re not feeling good about yourself, but I think we have to put it in perspective,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. “Playoffs are about having short memories and getting ready for the next one. … The bottom line was we weren’t good enough tonight. They were very good.”
Game 2 is Wednesday in Denver.
Rantanen got things going with a first-period goal to energize a crowd that was recently expanded to 10,500 fans (official attendance was 10,489). They saw Philipp Grubauer finish with 24 saves and 11 Colorado players record an assist.
Then, there was a whole lot of pushing and shoving.
Things turned testy soon after Mattias Janmark took a big hit from Avs defenseman Ryan Graves at 8:26 of the second period. Graves’ shoulder-to-chest hit knocked Janmark into the boards and he was helped off the ice. The Golden Knights were none-too-pleased with the shot. William Carrier later took back-to-back roughing penalties on Makar and then Graves.
It only got rougher in the third period. Max Pacioretty drew a roughing penalty on Avs defenseman Samuel Girard as the Vegas forward swung his shoulder and stick with 16:13 remaining. The hit led to a flurry of pushing and shoving.
Later, Reaves was assessed a roughing penalty for knocking down Graves, setting off a melee that resulted in misconduct calls on Saad, Valeri Nichushkin, Zach Whitecloud and Alex Pietrangelo.
“We knew they were going to play physical and had to be ready for it,” Makar said. “It might happen in the next game, but we’ll be ready for it.”
The Golden Knights had just one day off between series and looked sluggish against a Colorado team that was threading crisp passes through the defense.
Despite the lopsided series opener, this figured to be an evenly matched series considering both teams won four games against the other during the regular season. They also tied for the most points in the league, but the Avalanche earned the coveted Presidents’ Trophy — along with home-ice advantage throughout the postseason — courtesy of a tiebreaker (more regulation wins).
“It’s going to be a heck of a matchup and a heck of a series, that’s for sure,” Vegas forward Alex Tuch said.
MacKinnon has eight goals so far in the postseason. He’s the seventh player in league history to score at least eight goals through his first five games, according to research by NHL Stats.
Rantanen has recorded at least a point in a Colorado-record 15 straight playoff games. He also had an assist.
Ball Arena’s recently increased attendance of 10,500 fans, is 57.3% of the overall capacity. It had been at 7,750 (42.3%).
AROUND THE RINK
Avalanche forward Erik Johnson (upper body) skated Sunday. He hasn’t played since leaving the game on Jan. 30. … Avs F Nazem Kadri served the third of his eight-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head during the Blues series. … Avs F Sampo Ranta made his NHL debut. Ranta turns 21 on Monday.