NASHVILLE — The Avalanche’s quest for the Stanley Cup won’t get derailed by Nashvegas, so long as a stooge in a Predators sweater doesn’t gouge somebody’s eye out. Colorado lost goalie Darcy Kuemper on Saturday to the dangerously reckless mayhem committed by Nashville knucklehead Ryan Johansen, but emerged from this NHL playoff game with a 7-3 victory.

“You’re always worried when you see a guy holding his eye and heading off,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said after the Predators tried to goon it up with a Colorado team they have zero shot of beating at hockey.

In an odd way, maybe the classless Predators are helping to build the championship character of the Avs, who didn’t blink when Kuemper got poked in the eye by Johansen late in the first period. Colorado refused to let the unnerving sight of its No. 1 goalie crumpled on the ice in pain deter them from their mission.

Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog said every team that has won the NHL championship has discussed how “you’re going to have to go through adversity on the way.”

Try to stay classy, Smashville, hard as it might be for sore losers like Filip Forsberg and Johansen to deal with the frustration of three consecutive losses to a vastly superior Colorado team without throwing a tantrum like petulant children.

RELATED: Darcy Kuemper poked in his mask, leaves Game 3 with eye injury

This opening-round series is over except for the goonery.

After the Avalanche took the life out of Bridgestone Arena by jumping to a 2-1 lead, what Johansen did while getting in Kuemper’s grill during the final minute of the opening period was inexcusable.

“I think their guy’s going to the net and trying to cause a little chaos,” Bednar said. “I don’t think he intentionally tried to hurt him. It’s a hockey play, whether the stick’s in his face or not. He’s trying to cause some confusion.”

I ain’t no hockey player, but it seems highly unlikely to me that a trained professional camping out in the crease pokes Kuemper in the face and then proceeds to floss the goalie’s mask with his stick purely by accident.

Hockey 101 stipulates that if a player is issued a stick, he’s responsible for keeping it under control so the blade doesn’t become a weapon. Indiscriminate mayhem is not precise by nature. The intent is to cause a little chaos. And if somebody gets hurt in the process? So be it.

Whether Johansen was trying to harm Kuemper is irrelevant; the point is the Predator in this reckless act didn’t give a hoot what happened. When a pro athlete goons it up and treats a foe with disrespect for his health, there’s no room to claim the resulting injury is an unfortunate accident. A stick doesn’t get stuck in a goalie’s mask without pointing it in his direction.

“I honestly didn’t know that something like this could happen until today. I’ve never seen such an injury. It’s obviously scary that a stick can fit into the cage,” said Pavel Francouz, who filled in admirably between the pipes for Kuemper.

But to be honest, his job was made relatively easy by the shock and awe of Colorado’s unrelenting barrage of goals, including two scores by Landeskog, who was showing no ill effects from recent knee surgery.

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