DENVER (AP) — The book on Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche: They’re extremely speedy.
An overlooked chapter in that book: They can turn physical, too, when push comes to shove.
MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog each scored twice and the well-rested 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 in the third period and a match penalty on Vegas’ Ryan Reaves, who was also given an attempt-to-injure penalty.
“I don’t think you can call that physicality to be honest with you,” Landeskog said. “Reaves is on a mission to hurt somebody in the third and that’s what he goes out and does. I’m sure the league will take a look at it, intent to injure.”
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 break 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 goal for all seven games as the Golden Knights eliminated Minnesota on Friday.
“Playoffs are about having short memories and getting ready for the next one,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. “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 check knocked Janmark into the boards and he was helped off the ice. He didn’t return and DeBoer didn’t have an update.
The Golden Knights were none-too-pleased with the shot. William Carrier later took back-to-back roughing penalties on Makar and then Graves.
“Defenseless player. It’s a blindside interference,” Vegas captain Mark Stone said. “Obviously didn’t like the hit.”
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.”
Vegas drew 49 penalty minutes, while Colorado was issued 30.
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.
AROUND THE RINK
Avalanche D 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.
PREGAME: Robin Lehner in net for the Knights in Game 1 of best-of-seven series against the Colorado Avalanche. The two teams split the season series with 4 wins apiece.
FIRST PERIOD: Avalanche goal Mikko Rantanen (2) (Backhand shot), Assists: Devon Toews (3) and Cale Makar (3). AVALANCHE 1, KNIGHTS 0
Avalanche goal Gabriel Landeskog (3) (Wrist shot), Assists: Cale Makar (4) and Samuel Girard (3). AVALANCHE 2, KNIGHTS 0. Shots on goal: Avs 14, Knights 8.
SECOND PERIOD: Avalanche goal Brandon Saad (4) (Wrist shot), Assists: Valeri Nichushkin (2) and Cale Makar (5). AVALANCHE 3, KNIGHTS 0.
Avalanche goal Nathan MacKinnon (7) (Wrist shot), Assists: Ryan Graves and Mikko Rantanen. AVALANCHE 4, KNIGHTS 0.
Avalanche goal Gabriel Landeskog (4) (Tip-in shot), Assists: Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. AVALANCHE 5, KNIGHTS 0
Knights goal William Karlsson (2) (Tip-in shot) Assists: Max Pacioretty and Jonathan MarchessaultAVALANCE 5, KNIGHTS 1.
Avalanche goal Nathan MacKinnon (8) (Wrist shot), Assists: Joonas Donskoi and Gabriel Landeskog. AVALANCHE 6, KNIGHS1 after two.
THIRD PERIOD: Avalanche goal Cale Makar (2) (Slap shot)
This is the pregame story
Vegas Golden Knights (40-14-2, second in the West Division during the regular season) vs. Colorado Avalanche (39-13-4, first in the West Division during the regular season)
Denver; Sunday, 5 p.m. PDT
LINE: Avalanche -179, Golden Knights +151; over/under is 5.5
NHL PLAYOFFS SECOND ROUND: Avalanche host series opener
BOTTOM LINE: The Colorado Avalanche host the Vegas Golden Knights to begin the NHL second round. The teams meet Sunday for the ninth time this season. In their last regular season matchup on May 10, Colorado won 2-1.
The Avalanche are 39-13-4 in division games. Colorado ranks 10th in the NHL with 34.6 shots per game and is averaging 3.5 goals.
The Golden Knights are 40-14-2 in division matchups. Vegas ranks fourth in the league averaging 5.8 assists per game, led by Mark Stone with 0.7.
TOP PERFORMERS: Mikko Rantanen leads the Avalanche with 30 goals, adding 36 assists and recording 66 points. Nathan MacKinnon has six goals and three assists over the last 10 games for Colorado.
Shea Theodore leads the Golden Knights with a plus-28 in 53 games this season. Reilly Smith has four goals and four assists over the last 10 games for Vegas.
DURING THE PLAYOFFS: Avalanche: Averaging 5.0 goals, 8.0 assists, 2.8 penalties and 8.2 penalty minutes while giving up 1.8 goals per game with a .936 save percentage.
Golden Knights: Averaging 2.9 goals, 4.7 assists, 2.3 penalties and 5.3 penalty minutes while giving up 1.9 goals per game with a .925 save percentage.
INJURIES: Avalanche: Alex Newhook: day to day (lower-body), Jacob MacDonald: out (lower body), Bowen Byram: out (upper body), Matt Calvert: out (undisclosed), Dennis Gilbert: out (face).
Golden Knights: Peyton Krebs: out (upper body), Brayden McNabb: day to day (health protocols), Tomas Nosek: day to day (undisclosed).