Reaves, Murray help Penguins shut out Predators
PITTSBURGH — Ryan Reaves wasn’t confused about what sport he plays.
Donning a Pittsburgh Steelers helmet, complete with an opaque shield on the facemask, during his postgame interview session was just an illustration of his quirky personality.
Reaves, though, showed a bit of a football mentality on a night he no doubt embedded himself as a cult hero among Pittsburgh hockey fans.
Reaves, a rugged winger acquired from St. Louis in the offseason, scored his first goal in a Penguins uniform and got into two fights Saturday night in Pittsburgh’s 4-0 victory over the Nashville Predators at PPG Paints Arena, the defending Stanley Cup champions’ first win in three tries this season
Sitting in the penalty box in the third after his second fight, Reaves got showered with approving chants from the fans.
“That was nice. For two games, after you go out and trade for this prolific goal scorer,” Reaves said, pausing for comedic effect given that he has 28 goals in 422 NHL games, “I hadn’t done anything. It was nice to get one and a couple fights for the fans. It was a good moment. It was fun.”
Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray, who made 26 saves, enjoyed watching the courtship between Reaves and the local fans on a night when there were a combined 23 penalties for 82 minutes, most of them in the third.
“He’s a guy you want on your team, especially on a night like tonight,” Murray said. “I wouldn’t want to be a guy playing against Ryan Reaves. He brings energy. He brings toughness. He brings a whole lot to our team, and we’re happy to have him. Tonight was a huge night for him.”
Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Olli Maatta also scored. Maatta added an assist, and Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust each had two assists.
It was a bounce-back for all of the Penguins (1-1-1), who lost 10-1 Thursday at Chicago.
It was also a rematch of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, won by the Penguins in six games.
Murray shut out Nashville in the final two games of that series and has a goal-less streak of 206:28 against the Predators. It was his sixth career regular-season shutout.
Backup goalie Juuse Saros made 30 saves for Nashville (0-2). He started over Pekka Rinne, who is 0-6 with an .822 save percentage in his career in Pittsburgh and struggled against the Penguins in the final last spring.
The Penguins played the majority of the game with five defensemen after Ian Cole left at 14:50 of the first when he knelt to block a Roman Josi slap shot and took the puck in the face, bloodying him.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said Cole lost some teeth and will be out indefinitely pending further evaluation.
Malkin opened the scoring 1:06 into the first with a blistering one-timer from the top of the slot off of a pass from Phil Kessel.
It was Malkin’s first goal, but he has at least one point in all three Pittsburgh games.
Murray warded off a tie when he stopped Nashville’s Pontus Aberg point-blank after a turnover in the Pittsburgh end by defenseman Matt Hunwick.
“I think when we go back and look at this there’s going to be 15 really good even-strength chances where (Murray) either made saves or we didn’t connect on it,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.
About a minute later, the Penguins took a 2-0 lead when Guentzel scored on a rebound after Saros stopped shots from in tight by Crosby and Rust.
Crosby also has a three-game point streak.
“I thought our start was pretty good,” Nashville center Ryan Johansen said. “They happened to make us pay on two plays, but we felt like we were in the game and then we kind of got away from our game a little bit. Took a few too many penalties and our legs weren’t moving as well. We need 60-minute games no matter who you’re playing to win in this league.”
Reaves had his first fight in a Penguins uniform, against Austin Watson at 3:22 of the second, then got his first goal with Pittsburgh at 12:52 when he redirected a shot by Maatta for a 3-0 lead.
Maatta scored his second of the season from the top of the right circle off of a feed from Crosby 33 seconds into the third to make it 4-0.
Reaves got into another fight, with Cody McLeod, in a penalty-filled third.
“He’s a guy that when he’s on the ice, our opponents take notice,” Sullivan said of Reaves. “He’s a tough kid, he finishes checks, he plays the game hard, he sticks up for his teammates and he scores a goal tonight. I think he’s a guy that’s going to be really valuable for our group for a lot of reasons.”
None of which have anything directly to do with football.
NOTES: Nashville LW Kevin Fiala (upper-body injury) missed the game and is day-to-day. ... Penguins RW Patric Hornqvist (offseason hand surgery) skated with the team for the first time at the morning skate. He divulged that he had pins removed recently. ... Nashville C Nick Bonino received his Stanley Cup ring in the morning, and there was a video tribute to him during the first commercial break. He signed with the Predators as a free agent after winning the Cup with Pittsburgh. ... Nashville C Calle Jamkrok played in his 250th game.