When Ryan Reaves was acquired three days before the trade deadline, the Golden Knights wanted someone who would provide a physical presence and maybe even strike a bit of fear in opponents.
With the Knights stuck in a funk Sunday, it was the rugged forward who supplied a much-needed spark.
Reaves’ crunching check early in the second period put a charge in the Knights and was the turning point in their 4-0 victory over the Calgary Flames at T-Mobile Arena.
“It felt like after that, we got going,” Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said.
“That was the difference,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “That changed the game around.”
William Karlsson scored a natural hat trick as part of a four-goal second period to thrust himself into the race for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer.
And Fleury finished with 42 saves for his fourth shutout of the season to help the Knights (46-21-5, 97 points) end a four-game home losing streak and a two-game skid overall.
“We made things more simple this game, took less risk to create offense,” Fleury said. “We played well as a group in our zone. The guys did a great job in front of me. I could see most pucks, which makes a big difference. We just played better this game.”
With San Jose hot on their heels in the Pacific Division, the Knights hoped to add a bit of urgency to their game against the Flames.
Instead, Calgary controlled most of the first period as Fleury made 20 stops.
But Reaves ignited the announced crowd of 18,075 — not to mention his teammates — when he leveled defenseman T.J. Brodie at the side of the Calgary net 2:59 into the second.
“I guess I try and do that no matter when it is, but I think that was the right time to try and chase the hit a little bit,” Reaves said. “Caught a good situation.”
Colin Miller scored a power-play goal for the Knights less than three minutes after Reaves’ momentum-turning check. Karlsson scored the first of three straight goals 53 seconds later when he finished off an odd-man rush with James Neal.
“It’s not easy this time of the year,” Miller said. “Teams are coming in and they’re desperate and they want to win. We just have to match their intensity.”
Karlsson put the Knights up 3-0 when he buried a feed from Jonathan Marchessault at 13:01 and completed his second hat trick of the season less than two minutes later, skating down the right wing on a 2-on-1 and snapping a shot past Flames goaltender Mike Smith.
“It’s pretty incredible, something you dream about growing up. Especially playing in the NHL, too,” Karlsson said. It’s the second time now and it felt as great as the first time.”
Karlsson is fourth in the league with 39 goals, trailing Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (43), Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine (43) and Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh (40).
He has nine goals in his past 13 games and is third on the Knights with 65 points, one behind co-leaders Jonathan Marchessault and David Perron.
“We had that hit by (Reaves), kind of got the momentum swinging for us, and I think we played great hockey after that. Just little things that can make a huge difference,” Karlsson said. “First period wasn’t our best, but I think after that, I think it was all about us. I think we played two great periods.”
1. Scoreless streak over. Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault picked up the lone assist on William Karlsson’s second goal to snap his streak of seven straight games without a point.
2. Half a century. Knights forward David Perron notched his 50th assist of the season on Colin Miller’s goal in the second period. Perron is tied for 14th in the NHL in assists and shares the team scoring lead with 66 points.
3. Fire extinguisher. The Knights put a major dent in Calgary’s playoff hopes and improved to 3-0 vs. the Flames, outscoring them 15-5. The teams close out the regular season April 7 at Calgary.