The first shift of a game is about the only time Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves doesn’t like getting in a fight.
He made an exception Saturday night at the beginning of a 1-0 victory over the New York Islanders at T-Mobile Arena.
Reaves exchanged words with New York’s Ross Johnston before the opening faceoff, and the massive forwards dropped their gloves and started trading right hands three seconds into the game.
The reason for the fisticuffs could be found in the rafters of the arena.
Heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury, who will fight Deontay Wilder on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden, was announced as a guest of the team and cranked the rally siren before the game.
“(Johnston) asked me to go (before the opening faceoff), and I said, ‘Let me go run somebody first,’” Reaves said of the interaction. “So he goes, ‘Fury is here.’ I just said, ‘Yeah, that’s true. All right, we’ll do it.’”
Reaves and Johnston exchanged haymakers for almost a minute before the officials stepped in and sent them to the penalty box.
“Maybe if we were smaller guys (they would have stopped it), but we were both kind of throwing and you don’t want to get in the middle of that,” Reaves said. “You don’t want a ref eating one there.”
The Islanders and Knights played a somewhat chippy game in December, but Reaves said there wasn’t much carry-over.
“A little chirping last game, but that’s about it,” Reaves said. “(Johnston) said I was old news. I shut that up.”
Reaves also helped get the fans into the game.
Pete DeBoer had seen how much Reaves can fire up a crowd from the other bench when he coached the rival San Jose Sharks. He was pleased to be the beneficiary of that momentum now that he coaches the Knights.
“I didn’t know it was going to happen, but give Ryan Reaves all the credit in the world,” DeBoer said. “I think coming off a game like we had last game, it really sent the message to our group that ‘Hey, we’re here to play tonight.’ I think their guy was obviously trying to do the same thing. They’re coming off a loss. That’s such a tough job, and Ryan’s done it for so long. It would’ve been easy to pass on that one, but he didn’t and really gave our bench a lift.”
Reilly Smith, who scored the game’s only goal late in the second period, appreciated Reaves’ efforts.
“Wow,” he said. “That was two big guys fighting. Ryan does a great job really getting the fans into it. (Three) seconds into the game. I think we built off that tone, so hats off to him.”
Reaves said he would have preferred to fight after he had settled into the game a bit.
“I like to get a shift in (before I fight) just for the reason of exactly what happened tonight,” he said. “I get into the fight right when the puck drops and then I sat there (in the penalty box) and there wasn’t a whistle until like 10:30 left and then there were two power plays, so I didn’t get another shift until like seven minutes and my legs were shot. So I like to get one shift in me, but it’s all right.”
It wasn’t the first time he got into a fight on the opening faceoff. Reaves said he fought Deryk Engelland, now his teammate, at the beginning of a game when he played for the St. Louis Blues.
Not for sale
Marc-Andre Fleury’s gold pads were set to be auctioned off Tuesday at the team’s annual gala.
Fleury understandably had a change of heart after Saturday’s shutout. The goaltender decided to keep the pads that helped him record the 60th regular-season shutout of his career and will auction off a mask instead.
CONFIRMED: Marc-Andre Fleury's pads are no longer going to be up for auction
you all understand, right 😆
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 16, 2020
Fleury is 3-2-2 all time in gold, but maybe Saturday’s game will prove to be a good omen. He had to make only 19 saves, tied for the fifth fewest he’s made in a shutout.
Knights defensemen Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt were tasked with following center Mathew Barzal, who won the fastest skater event at the NHL All-Star Game Skills Competition.
They did well. The Islanders had one 5-on-5 scoring chance when Barzal was defended by Schmidt and McNabb. They stayed with him most of the night and were key to the shutout.