MacKinnon, Landeskog Score Twice as Avalanche Dominate Golden Knights in Game 1

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 31, 2021

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) scores a goal against Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (90) in the second period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series Sunday, May 30, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
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.


That's Nathan MacKinnon's (@Mackinnon9) SEVENTH goal of the #StanleyCup Playoffs.<br><br>🇺🇸: https://t.co/8hIW1bdDAQ @NHLonNBCSports <br>🇨🇦: https://t.co/2p3rjHAkXt @Sportsnet pic.twitter.com/K8twDl4XjB

NHL Public Relations @PR_NHL

Cale Makar, who is skating in the 30th playoff game of his NHL career, has assisted on three of four @Avalanche goals in Game 1. Will he continue to climb this list before the final buzzer? #StanleyCup#NHLStats: https://t.co/pEypMhXYip pic.twitter.com/9JBxNQ7kbB


The @Avalanche are simply exceptional when they get passing. #StanleyCup<br><br>🇺🇸: https://t.co/99mOUFKQXF @NHLonNBCSports <br>🇨🇦: https://t.co/gcZGJYwNYC @Sportsnet pic.twitter.com/jvCrP8ZyxV


Mikko Rantanen gets the party started for the @Avalanche. #StanleyCup<br><br>🇺🇸: https://t.co/BaW9YZY8MP @NHLonNBCSports <br>🇨🇦: https://t.co/h8AXxmdXp3 @Sportsnet pic.twitter.com/cBYxTekgVN


Moose is loose in Game 1! #StanleyCup<br><br>🇺🇸: https://t.co/YbQuepUMsx @NHLonNBCSports <br>🇨🇦: https://t.co/hheDbktQXd @Sportsnet pic.twitter.com/XFoQVD6nuQ


Welcome to the Nathan MacKinnon show, everyone. #StanleyCup<br><br>NHL x @massmutual <br><br>🇺🇸: https://t.co/7bPoMIc5xs @NHLonNBCSports <br>🇨🇦: https://t.co/LvbVa16iSE @Sportsnet pic.twitter.com/TKpowsNkyp

The Avalanche wasted no time reminding the Knights and the rest of the league just how dominant they 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 the Avalanche continue to play like they did in Sunday's game, they will cruise through even the formidable Knights into the Western Conference Final.

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 May 10, meaning the visitors had to worry about potential rust as well.

The decision quickly backfired.

Liam McHugh @liam_mchugh

Over the last 102 games, the Avs have been shut out twice--both times by Marc-Andre Fleury. Tonight Vegas will roll with Robin Lehner. @NHLonNBCSports

Justin Bourne @jtbourne

I mean, there’s a decent chance DeBoer saw this coming in Game 1 and wanted to spare Fleury? Lehner just left for dead here.

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 that 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.

What's Next?

Game 2 of the series is Wednesday in Colorado.