Ryan Reaves scores once, fights twice in Penguins' win
One of the things Ryan Reaves specializes in as a hockey player is changing momentum.
So when he reflected on a brutal blowout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the second game of the season, Reaves wasn't happy. He figured a big hit, a timely fight, even a net-front scrum that he started might have been enough to stop the momentum avalanche the Penguins got buried under, and he was unable to provide it.
Two days later, he did plenty to make sure the Nashville Predators never got going at all.
Reaves recorded his first goal and first two fighting majors with his new team, helping the Penguins to a 4-0 bounce-back victory Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena.
Evgeni Malkin scored a critical early goal, and Olli Maatta added a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who are off to a 1-1-1 start. The Predators are 0-2-0.
“I think we got embarrassed in Chicago, and when you get embarrassed like that, you come out really hungry,” Reaves said. “From the drop of the puck, we came out hungry for more.”
Reaves made his postgame comments wearing a No. 18 Steelers helmet, complete with a mirrored visor. It's the trophy the team will give to its internal MVP for each victory this season.
“I do wear this to bed sometimes,” Reaves added.
His sense of humor has made him popular in the locker room. His style of play made him a fan favorite Saturday night.
About three minutes into the second period, he overwhelmed 6-foot-4 Austin Watson in a fight. About 10 minutes later, he tipped in a Maatta point shot to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead. Later, he punched Cody McLeod to the ice in a third-period scrap, then offered a few pointed comments to the Predators bench.
When the game got contentious in the third period — Sidney Crosby took a high hit from Mattias Ekholm and a high stick from Scott Hartnell — Reaves spent a few shifts riding shotgun on his captain's right wing.
“I don't think anyone wants to go back for a puck when he's got speed, and he's looking to finish a hit,” Crosby said.
The Penguins lost defenseman Ian Cole to an injury in the first period. As he dropped to a knee to block a Roman Josi shot, the puck hit him squarely in the mouth. Coach Mike Sullivan said Cole lost some teeth and would be out indefinitely pending a medical evaluation.
Sullivan said he thought the Penguins bounced back from a 10-1 loss to Chicago on Thursday because they made better decisions with the puck and defended the rush more conscientiously.
“I just think we were harder to play against,” Sullivan said.
A 50-foot Malkin bomb 66 seconds into the first period didn't hurt, either.
On the game's second shift, Phil Kessel skated up the left wing and sent a pass to the center of the ice toward Malkin, who hammered a shot past scrambling goalie Juuse Saros to give the Penguins a quick lead.
“We all wanted to bounce back,” Crosby said. “To get that first one gives you a big boost. That was a big goal from Geno.”
At the other end of the ice, Murray was airtight, making 26 saves after allowing a total of 11 goals in his first two appearances of the season. Counting the last two games of last season's Stanley Cup Final, Murray has shut out the Predators three straight games.
“We were playing in their face all night,” Murray said. “We didn't give them any time and space. That's key for us. I don't think we gave them a chance tonight. We were just dominant.”