Golden Knights’ Robin Lehner gets surprise start in Game 1 vs. Avalanche and falls 7-1

Last year, Robin Lehner got 16 of 20 playoff starts for the Vegas Golden Knights.

This year, Marc-Andre Fleury got all the playoff starts — until Sunday.

Lehner was the surprise starter in Game 1 against the Colorado Avalanche — his first appearance since May 10 — and was shelled 7-1. Not that Fleury might have been able to slow down the onslaught by the rested Avalanche, who got five goals from their top line, but he did shut out Colorado twice this season.

But rest for Fleury was the reason behind the move.

"(Fleury) had just played seven games in 14 days and an emotional Game 7," Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. "It was a perfect opportunity, in our minds, to use our other starter. That’s been a strength of ours all year."

Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner looks on after giving up a goal to the Avalanche during the first period of Game 1. (Photo: Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports)

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Fleury flourished this season while Lehner was out with a concussion, but after his return, the two alternated starts. Together, they won the Williams Jennings Trophy for lowest team goals-against average.

Fleury excelled in the playoffs, and his 1.71 goals-against average and .931 save percentage topped his regular-season numbers (1.98, .928). Lehner, who also won the Jennings Trophy with the New York Islanders in 2018-19, went 2.29, .913 in the regular season.

DeBoer figured he might have to use Lehner at some point in the playoffs, and this was a good time. Even with the blowout loss, the Golden Knights trail the series by one game and have two days off to make corrections before Game 2 on Wednesday.

The coach is not second-guessing his decision.

"The game tonight wasn’t about Robin Lehner," DeBoer said. "We obviously didn’t play well in front on him."

Hurricanes expect goalie to bounce back

The Tampa Bay Lightning's 2-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday came down to two things.

Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was brilliant, and on one shot, Hurricanes netminder Alex Nedeljkovic wasn't.

"There’s no use hiding it. … It was a bad goal," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said of Barclay Goodrow's go-ahead goal with 7:21 left in the third period. "He’s going to admit it. It happens."

Dave Mishkin calls Barclay Goodrow’s goal to make it 2-1 Lightning #GoBolts#TBLvsCAR#StanleyCuppic.twitter.com/KH8lIJdlz7

Goodrow beat the goalie short side from a bad angle.

"The puck had eyes obviously, but good things happen when you shoot the puck," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said.

Goodrow said he wasn't even looking to score on the play.

"I was just looking to get the puck on net to create a rebound for (Yanni Gourde) and it just found a way to go in," he said.

Brind'Amour said Nedeljkovic also made a lot of good saves and predicts he'll bounce back in Game 2.

"We got to score more than one (goal) to win anyway," he said.

The Hurricanes carried play through a lot of the game, but Vasilevskiy finished with 37 saves. He's expected to pick up his second Vezina Trophy when awards winners are announced later in the playoffs.

"He’s the best in the world," Brind'Amour said. "We just got to figure out ways to make it harder on him."

Monday's playoff games

Montreal at Toronto, 7 p.m. ET, CNBC. Series tied 3-3.

N.Y. Islanders at Boston, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN. Bruins lead 1-0.

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