Vegas Golden Knights’ Shea Theodore (27) is checked by Vancouver Canucks’ Tyler Toffoli (73) during second period NHL Western Conference Stanley Cup playoff action in Edmonton on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Lehner makes 32 saves, Vegas blanks Vancouver 3-0 in NHL playoff clash

Golden Knights lead Canucks 2-1 in best-of-seven series

Goaltender Robin Lehner made 32 saves for the shutout as the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 in NHL playoff action Saturday in Edmonton.

The win gives the Golden Knights a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven second-round series, with Game 4 set, on a short turnaround, for Sunday night.

It was Lehner’s second playoff shutout of his career, and the second of the series. He blanked Vancouver 5-0 in the series opener. He is 7-2 in the return-to-play tournament.

Alex Tuch, with his seventh goal of the post-season, Mark Stone, and Zack Whitecloud scored for Vegas.

Jacob Markstrom, in his 13th post-season start, stopped 31 of 34 for Vancouver.

Lehner, acquired at the trade deadline in a three-team deal including the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks, was the difference early.

Vancouver came out flying in the first period, outshooting Vegas 16-10 and enjoying a 78-second 5-on-3 power play. Lehner turned aside a wealth of high-quality scoring chances: point-blank one-timers, blasts off the transition, redirects, and loose pucks bouncing through the blue paint.

Tuch scored first at 4:05 of the first period. Racing in full flight through the neutral zone, he split the defence, settled down a bouncing stretch pass from Nicolas Roy and delivered a rocket shot past Markstrom into the top corner.

Just 83 seconds later, it was 2-0 when Whitecloud pounced on a loose puck at the right face-off circle, fired it through traffic and in.

Early in the third, Stone roofed a fluttering puck from the faceoff circle on the power play for a 3-0 advantage. It was his second goal of the series and sixth of the playoffs.

READ MORE: NHL playoffs return after 2-day break for protests

The teams had not played since Tuesday. The NHL did not play its scheduled games Thursday or Friday after players in the Edmonton and Toronto playoff sites made it clear they wanted to make a statement to highlight the issues of social injustice, systemic racism and police brutality.

The Golden Knights can gain a 3-1 stranglehold on the series with a win Sunday.

For Vancouver, the concern will be Markstrom and puck fatigue. The 30-year-old Swede is expected to start Sunday, which will be his 14th game in 29 days and his third back-to-back contest. He has been the backbone of the Canucks’ playoff success but has regularly been facing more than 30 shots a night in the post-season.

His backup is Thatcher Demko. Demko has started just 34 games over his first three seasons and has not played in the playoffs except for some mop-up time in the third period in the 5-0 loss.

Vegas has experienced veteran Marc-Andre Fleury in reserve. Fleury has spelled off Lehner once in the round-robin series and again for one game in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks. Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer has said the plan is to play both.

All games are being played in front of empty seats at Rogers Place. The players are kept in isolation between contests to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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