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Game 1: Lehner Stumbles, Reaves Tossed, Avs Crush VGK, 7-1

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Vegas Golden Knights Robin Lehner

DENVER — The Vegas Golden Knights may be without Ryan Reaves for a while, and the sting of a Game 1 beatdown will sit with the Golden Knights for a few days after the Colorado Avalanche embarrassed VGK in a 7-1 win in Game 1, Round Two of their much-anticipated NHL playoff series beginning at Ball Arena.

The downfall began in the first period as head coach Pete DeBoer flipped goaltenders for Game 1, from Marc-Andre Fleury to Robin Lehner. Things didn’t go well–Lehner was flopping from the start. The big goalie mishandled a couple of pucks and whiffed on a backhander.

Colorado outshot the Golden Knights 14-8, but that included a couple of late, long-range shots for VGK.

Five minutes into the game, Colorado defenseman Devon Toews intercepted a centering pass, and Colorado was off. Toews dished to Mikko Rantanen, who got the edge on Vegas center Nicolas Roy. Rantanen’s 15-foot high backhand whizzed past Lehner’s glove. 1-0.

The Colorado push continued.

Midway through the first period, Colorado worked the puck around the offensive zone. Both Alec Martinez and Mattias Janmark failed to cover Gabriel Landeskog as the Avalanche captain raced down the left-wing. Cale Makar put a saucy pass on Landeskog’s stick, and Landeskog (3) snapped it into the yawning cage past a diving Lehner. 2-0.

Ryan Reaves started the game, but Vegas never got their physical game. Instead, it was Colorado who snowed the Golden Knights.

The push became a full-fledged Avalanche in the second period as Colorado exploded for four goals, and Nathan MacKinnon found his best stride.

One minute into the second period, Brandon Saad (4) slipped undetected on the offwing and beat Lehner. 3-0. Saad, who has one Stanley Cup ring with Chicago, continued his playoff burst.

A few minutes later, Colorado salted the flats. MacKinnon also was uncovered on the backside, and he, too, whipped a wrister past Lehner from the LW circle.

Seriously, Nathan MacKinnon uncovered?

It was that kind of night. And it got worse.

Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog (4)finished a glorious tic-tac-toe power-play goal after the Golden Knights got caught trying to send a physical message, and William Carrier earned his second roughing penalty of the period and second in four minutes.

Late in the period, MacKinnon laid waste to the Golden Knights defense as he flew past them at the blue line and deked Lehner. 6-1.

The Vegas Golden Knights did put a marker on the board midway through the second. William Karlsson netted an open chance in front of the net, though there wasn’t too much celebration as Karlsson’s goal only cut Colorado’s lead to 5-1.

VGK managed just 17 shots through two periods, including only 13 at even strength.

Things got chippy as the second period deepened, but officials were conscious of message sending at it was the Golden Knights who got the gate. With a big lead, Colorado was able to turn the other cheek and take the power play time.

However, things came to a head, literally, in the third period when Pacioretty, who was a surprise insertion in Game 7 against Minnesota, reverse-checked Samuel Girard and made direct contact with Girard’s chin.

The high-sticking call on Pacioretty was overturned because his stick didn’t make contact, but the roughing call stood.

Girard went to the room, came back to the bench, but was immediately sent to the locker room a second time.

After some scrums and chats, each team received a pair of minor penalties, and the game remained 5v5.

However, things went off the rails midway through the third period, when Reaves dished some frontier justice to Ryan Graves for his second period hit on Mattias Janmark. Reaves had Graves in a headlock near the net, slammed him to the ice, and may have gotten a few more licks in during the ensuing melee.

Graves left the game. So, too, did Reaves, who was ejected for intent to injure. Colorado got a nine-minute power-play, and that was the end of most of the hostilities and the game.

Reaves will get a call from the NHL Department of Player Safety, or it will at least be reviewed, which could cost Reaves money or keep him out of Game 2 on Wednesday.

Cale Makar completed his four-point night with a slap shot power-play goal near the end of the nine-minute man-advantage.

Lehner stopped 29 of 36 shots as “Lehner…Lehner” taunts rained down from the nearly full rafters. The Vegas Golden Knights managed only 24 shots on goal.

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