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Game 1 was a laugher — literally.
The Vegas Golden Knights didn’t just beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-0 in the opening game of their playoff series, they openly mocked them.
They did so with Ryan Reaves laughing in Antoine Roussel’s face and when he clucked like a chicken on the bench.
Knights forwards Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and Alex Tuch had a good laugh about it during their post-game press conference.
It’s one thing to mock Roussel, who is no choir boy and was trying to get into the head of Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner.
It’s quite another to disrespect the Canucks’ best player, Elias Pettersson.
The Athletic‘s Thomas Drance, who is watching these games live in Edmonton and can hear what the players are saying quite clearly in an empty arena, caught this gem:
#VegasBorn bench really ragging on Elias Pettersson.
As he carried the puck through the neutral zone, a Vegas player mock encouraged him "There you go you little squirt." #Canucks
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) August 24, 2020
Yes, they called Pettersson “little squirt.”
And they laughed and they laughed and they laughed.
Then the Canucks responded with a 5-2 win in Game 2, a game in which Pettersson picked up a goal and two assists to move into second place in NHL postseason scoring.
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) August 26, 2020
They’re not laughing anymore.
While Canucks head coach Travis Green downplayed the chirps, and certainly there’s an element of that in every NHL game, captain Bo Horvat agreed it was nice to shut them up.
“We knew how it felt when they were winning, laughing, having a good time on the bench. We keep that in the back of our mind for sure,” said Horvat, the NHL playoffs’ leading goal-scorer after scoring twice on Tuesday. “We wanted to come out strong tonight and have a statement. I thought we did that. Obviously it was a lot quieter over there, and we’re going to try to keep it that way.”
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To be fair, Vegas had good reason to be cocky.
Tuesday’s victory was the Canucks’ first-ever win over the Golden Knights in regulation time since Vegas entered the league three years ago. Including the series-opener, the Knights have had the Canucks’ number, going 9-0-2 against them all-time in regular season and playoff games.
Horvat agreed that Game 2 was a statement game, particularly in the first period when Vancouver jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
“I thought we responded really well,” said Horvat. “I was proud of the way the guys did. We knew we had to be better, obviously, they’re a great hockey team and we knew that. We knew that we had to come out strong today and we did, and we showed that we can play with them.”
“I think it’s good that we showed that we can bounce back from a bad Game 1,” said Pettersson. “We talked about it and I think we executed it very good today.”
The Canucks will look to get some more peace and quiet on Thursday, with last change as the “home” team in Game 3.