Five minutes, 44 seconds. Two fights, three goals.
Ryan Reaves had the most important subplot in that stretch. It just wasn’t in the realm you’d think.
Reaves scored his first goal of the season at the right time, a tipped shot at 12:27 of the third period to overcome a two-goal deficit and eventually complete a 5-4 win for the Vegas Golden Knights over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday.
“Any time you do anything against the Sharks, it’s fun,” Reaves said. “It’s no secret I hate every one of them over there.”
It was his first goal in over a year; you’d have to go back to March 3, 2020 to find the last time the Golden Knights’ enforcer found the back of the net.
“It’s been a long time since last season,” Reaves said. “I’ve struggled a little bit this season. I haven’t been playing my best hockey, trying to dig my way out of the hole and help the team.”
Normally, the clutch goal would be provided by the big-name players. Say, Mark Stone and Jonathan Marchessault for example. Not on this night.
While Reaves was completing the Vegas comeback, Stone and Marchessault were serving five-minute majors for fighting. Stone and Sharks forward Tomas Hertl dropped the gloves at 7:11 of the third, 28 seconds after Cody Glass started the comeback on the power play to make it 3-2.
Almost four minutes later, Marchessault got into it with Sharks captain Logan Couture, 55 seconds after Nicolas Hague tied it 3-3.
Consider, if you will, the words from San Jose forward Kurtis Gabriel before the game where he called out Reaves and laid out a plan that hits were coming. Reaves and Gabriel have already gone at it once this season, and No. 75 is not normally one to back down from a fight.
“Reavo’s worked really hard,” said Pete DeBoer. “With all the distractions of the antics of their guy [Gabriel] through the first couple of games, I thought he did a good job keeping his focus and playing hockey. He was obviously a much more important part of the game than Gabriel was.”
Instead, it was Reaves watching on while his captain and resident spider monkey went fisticuffs instead of himself.
“It’s fun, but it’s nerve-wracking for me,” Reaves said. “I don’t really like Stoney and Marchy and those guys fighting. Those hands aren’t made to fight; they’re made to dance. They’re supposed to be soft. I know they’re going to be sore tomorrow. Hats off to those two. Unbelievable job. That’s why they’re leaders on this team.”
This topsy-turvy night wasn’t just about the fighting. You look at the score sheet and see the goals came from three defensemen, a fourth-line forward, and a 21-year-old center whose main goal in life is to score power-play goals.
It was a night filled with drag-em-out brawls at an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day with green beers flying everywhere.
“I don’t know if it’s April Fools or St. Patrick’s Day when you see Reaves scoring and Couture, Hertl and Stone fighting,” DeBoer said. “It definitely wasn’t a typical game, but it was really hard-fought.”
The Golden Knights trailed 3-1 after two periods; all three goals allowed were in the blue paint, coming off rebounds and second chances. Vegas likely didn’t need the physicality aspect to spark the comeback, but it didn’t hurt. Glass’ goal came five seconds into a power play in a game where the Vegas power play was mostly a dud (2-for-5) until the third period.
It didn’t hurt on this night, and the Golden Knights have a four-game winning streak in their back pocket for their troubles. For one night, Reaves gets to play the hero while keeping his hands clean.
“I think when we came into the locker room, knowing that we know how to win games … when we come into a third period like that, down, up, it doesn’t matter,” Reaves said. “We came out with a little bit of emotion. It’s going to happen in a rivalry game. We don’t like each other. There’s going to be swings like that, but at the end of the day, we know that we can win any game.”