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Golden Knights manhandle Canucks in series opener

Updated August 24, 2020 - 12:03 am

Ryan Reaves incessantly clucked at Antoine Roussel from the Golden Knights’ bench, calling the Vancouver Canucks forward a chicken.

Jonathan Marchessault clobbered Elias Pettersson in the glass in the first period, sending a message to last season’s rookie of the year.

The Knights walked into Rogers Place on Sunday, bullied the Canucks and stole their lunch money during a 5-0 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

The best-of-seven series continues Tuesday in Edmonton, Alberta.

“I thought our big boys really set the tone with some hits early,” Knights forward Mark Stone said. “We made it tough on their defense tonight. That’s what we’re going to have to do throughout the majority of this series.”

Goaltender Robin Lehner played through the distraction caused by an incendiary social media post from the agent of backup Marc-Andre Fleury on Saturday to post his first career playoff shutout.

Lehner finished with 26 saves, as the Knights held Vancouver’s potent duo of Pettersson and rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes without a shot on goal.

He improved to 6-1 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in the postseason.

“As long as we’re winning, it doesn’t matter whoever plays,” Lehner said. “It’s just part of the game. People have their fan favorites and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, we’re winning and I’m very blessed to be a part of this team and be teammates with Marc.”

Reilly Smith, Mark Stone and Alex Tuch each finished with a goal and an assist. Defenseman Shea Theodore added two assists.

Jonathan Marchessault and Max Pacioretty also scored as the Knights moved to 9-0-2 all time against Vancouver in the regular season and playoffs.

Reaves (11 hits) and William Carrier (nine hits) set the tone physically, and the Knights outhit the Canucks 54-45.

“They like to make plays and hang onto the puck,” Knights coach Pete DeBoer said. “That’s part of our game plan is to get a piece of people whenever we get a chance out there, and we’ve got some guys that enjoy that part of it.

The Knights imposed their will on the Canucks in the second period, scoring three times to take a 4-0 lead.

Smith cleaned up a rebound on a power play less than three minutes into the period for his fourth goal before Stone briefly took over the team lead in goals with his fifth of the postseason.

Stone took away the sight lines of Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom and deflected Nate Schmidt’s shot from the point with 8:25 left in the second.

Tuch matched Stone with his fifth at 16:34 when he blew past defenseman Christopher Tanev and forward J.T. Miller and scored on a breakaway for a 4-0 lead.

“I saw the defenseman standing still, and it was the perfect flip (by Nick Cousins), and I caught the defenseman flat-footed,” Tuch said. “I just tried to get past him, and it bounced perfectly in the middle.”

Pacioretty scored midway through the third to chase Markstrom, who stopped 29 of 34 shots after he entered with a .929 save percentage in the postseason.

The Knights outshot Vancouver 39-26.

The Canucks are fresh off a six-game series victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues and advanced to the second round for the first time since 2011, but were steamrolled by the bigger, stronger Knights.

The Knights hadn’t played since they finished off Chicago on Tuesday and got off to a frisky start in their first-ever postseason meeting with Vancouver after being triggered by Roussel.

Lehner and Roussel jawed during warmups before Reaves stepped in. The Knights goaltender sent another message early in the first period when he slashed Roussel in the leg after the third-line antagonist buzzed past his crease.

“I want to thank him. He got a couple extra percentages more out of me today,” Lehner said. “I hope he keeps going because he’s just poking the bear.”

The Knights dished out several hard checks and battered the Canucks in the first 20 minutes, finishing with a 21-11 advantage in hits. Reaves neutralized Roussel, who eventually picked up a 10-minute misconduct early in the third period trying to instigate a fight.

“That’s why we pay (Reaves) the big bucks,” Marchessault said. “He’s going to take care of him, and we’ll do our thing.”

Marchessault took advantage of the extra room that resulted from the Knights’ physical play to open the scoring at 11:37 of the first period.

Smith worked the puck behind the net and sent a centering pass that appeared to bounce off Tanev to Marchessault. He made a quick move around Bo Horvat and stuffed in his third goal of the playoffs from the side of the net with none of the Canucks making him pay.

“These series, they can be long, but stealing the first game is important, and doing it the way we did tonight shows what we have in our locker room,” Smith said. “When we have literally every guy coming in and stepping up and being a big impact like they were tonight, we’re a hard team to beat.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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