For a group that averaged just over 11 minutes, Ryan Reaves, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Tomas Nosek sure did plenty of damage to open the Stanley Cup Final.
The Golden Knights’ fourth line had three goals in the third period and was the difference in the 6-4 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 1 Monday at T-Mobile Arena.
Nosek scored twice, including the game-winner at the 9:44 mark and empty-net goal to seal it with 2.67 seconds remaining while Reaves tied it 4-4, scoring for the second straight game.
“I think for us we’re just keeping things simple, working hard and winning battles,” said Reaves, who scored the series clincher against Winnipeg on May 20 to send the Knights to the final. “We’re comfortable playing together and we’re always looking for each other, talking out on the ice, and it’s leading to scoring chances.”
Bellemare, who didn’t have a point, was 6-4 on faceoffs and a plus-3 while playing just under 12 minutes.
“Obviously we’re not the line you’re going to expect the goals (from) every night, but we’ve been trying to create momentum and work, and that’s what we’ve been saying all year long,” Bellemare said. “Build, build, build. Create momentum for your team. And one time, maybe it won’t happen every game, but it’s fun to be able to help offensively.”
Knights coach Gerard Gallant said that has been the key all season to the Bellemare line’s play, regardless of who is skating on the flanks.
“They were really important,” Gallant said. “It’s great when you see them get rewarded for their hard work. All they do is keep things simple and work hard.”
Sometimes, they get a break or two as well. Reaves cross-checked Capitals defenseman John Carlson to get himself open and had no one impede him as he collected a loose puck and beat Braden Holtby from close range at 2:41 of the third period to tie the game at 4-4. Washington coach Barry Trotz said he didn’t like the play and thought the Capitals should have been going on the power play.
Ryan Reaves for Conn Smythe pic.twitter.com/OvuUdBh2z0
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 29, 2018
Reaves, of course, saw it differently.
“We’re just fighting for position,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re crying about.”
Nosek’s first goal also came as Devante Smith-Pelly failed to clear the zone and Shea Theodore kept the puck in Capitals territory, eluded one would-be defender, than made a perfect cross-ice pass to Nosek, who one-timed it past Holtby.
They also didn’t back down from Caps tough guy Tom Wilson who once again crossed the line by taking a run at Jonathan Marchessault in the third period and forced Marchessault to leave the game briefly.
“It’s late,”Reaves said of the play. “It’s late and I hope the league does something about it. It’s just Wilson doing what Wilson does.”
But Monday was more about the Knights’ resiliency that helped them win Game 1 and need just three more victories to capture the Stanley Cup. Game 2 is 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“I thought we showed a lot of character and kept coming back and we found a way,” Bellemare said. “It was definitely a team win.”