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Reaves playing key role for Golden Knights in Cup Final after rough start

Took costly penalties after trade from Penguins, apologized to coach

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- First impressions count for something on a new job.

That's why Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves went out of his way to apologize to coach Gerard Gallant after taking two minor penalties in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 27, four days and two games after they acquired him in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Three months later, Reaves and the Golden Knights are three wins from winning the Stanley Cup in their first season. Game 2 of the best-of-7 series against the Washington Capitals is here Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

 

[RELATED: Reaves can't help but sing 'Minnie the Moocher' | Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

On Tuesday, Gallant and Reaves remembered their early conversation, which left a lasting impression on the coach. It lingered far longer than the two minor penalties.

"Ryan had a bit of a reputation at that time," Gallant said. "He came in and he said to me, 'Coach, I don't take too many penalties. That's not the way I play.' He said, 'I'm a tough guy and I play hard but I'm not going to take a bunch of penalties, and I cost us the game today.'

"I just said, 'Listen, you play the game the way you play the game. Don't worry about that.' That was three months ago when he came in. He was upfront and he took responsibility."

Reaves, 31, has been known as a stand-up guy in the League, an impressive physical presence, and of late, a goal-scorer.

Yes, a goal-scorer.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Reaves roofs home the equalizer

He has scored two of the more important goals in the brief yet thrilling playoff history of the Golden Knights. On May 20, Reaves scored the series-clinching goal in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against the Winnipeg Jets. On Monday, he scored the tying goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, a 6-4 win.

Reaves scored 31 goals in 477 NHL regular-season games with the Penguins and St. Louis Blues and one in the playoffs, with the Blues in 2015. He didn't score in 21 regular-season games with the Golden Knights and was a healthy scratch until Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round against the San Jose Sharks.

Reaves took a third-period penalty in his first game that led to the tying power-play goal in a 3-2 overtime loss to Los Angeles.

"I think what's kept me in this league is I don't take stupid penalties that always put our team down," Reaves said. "Those first two games -- I'm not going to say I agree with all the calls -- but it put us down and we ended up losing a game.

"I don't ever want to do that, especially on a new team. I don't want that to be my first impression."

Video: VGK@WPG, Gm5: Reaves tips in point shot for lead

The waning role of the classic enforcer has forced Reaves to change and work on his skills. He said he started to make the necessary tweaks a couple of years ago.

"All these big guys are leaving the League now and the game is getting fast, getting younger," Reaves (6-foot-1, 225 pounds) said. "You've got to adapt, and you look at my year and I only had had six fights this year. Last year, I think almost the same.

"In any profession, you've got to adapt to the changes."

He joked about his reception after joining the Golden Knights.

"Ruin the whole team, yeah," Reaves said. "I apologized to Vegas."

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Reaves on fourth line's performance

But he said he felt accepted by his teammates as quickly as his first game in Vegas, the one against Los Angeles when he took the two minors.

"Even though a lot of fans weren't too happy with me with my penalties," Reaves said. "Just the atmosphere and the culture of this team and the group of guys.

"I like where I fit, and I love the city and I love the fans here."

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