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Pens rough up Nashville in 4-0 win

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Ryan Reaves scored a goal and won two fights, while Olli Maatta found the back of the net for a second time this season, as the Penguins shutout Nashville 4-0 Saturday night.

The rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals was a physical one Saturday night.

The catalyst of that physicality was from a guy who never played in that championship series.

Newly-acquired right winger Ryan Reaves made his presence known Saturday night, as the 6’1, 225 lb linebacker of the ice terrorized Nashville (0-2), keeping momentum with Pittsburgh (1-1-1), and helping his Penguins win easily in a 4-0 shutout at PPG Paints Arena.

Reaves won two fights and scored a goal on a deflection off an Olli Maatta slapper from the blue line midway through the 2nd period, which gave the Pens a commanding 3-0 lead.  The 4th line winger eventually got the hook with 7:33 left in the 3rd period, thanks to a scuffle with Scott Hartnell, in which Reaves earned a double-minor for roughing and a misconduct. 

“They traded for a goal scorer, and it just so happens I can fight once in a while,” said Reaves, who had a Steelers football helmet on with a tinted visor during a post-game interview.

Reaves tallied up a game-high 24 penalty minutes, serving five of the 11 penalties issued to the Penguins.

“I think we got embarrassed in Chicago and when you get embarrassed like that, you come out really hungry,” continued Reaves.  “I think from the drop of the puck we came out hungry for more.”

The Penguins took their first bite with just 1:06 into the game, when Evgeni Malkin corralled a Carl Hagelin centering pass and ripped a slap shot to the top shelf past Juuse Saros glove for what served as a winning goal.

“That was huge,” said Sidney Crosby, who finished with two assists on the night.  “That was big for him to start us off like that and get us going.  We all wanted to bounce back, and to get that first one was a big boost.  That was a big goal.”

Jake Guentzel found the back of the net just over nine minutes later, giving the Pens, who pasted 34 total shots on the Predators’ backup goalie, a 2-0 lead through the 1st period.

“We were harder to play against tonight,” said Coach Mike Sullivan.  “We made better decisions with the puck.  We didn’t feed their transition game.  As long as we stay vigilant in those areas in the rink, we become a harder team to play against.  I think the biggest thing was just our calculation, our risk, which we were much better tonight than we were the first two games.”

Giving up a combined 15 goals in two games—10 to Chicago on Thursday—the Pens easily put together their best defensive campaign of the early season, with Matt Murray pitching a shutout, stopping all 26 shots.

“Everybody was feeling it today.  It shows the character in this room,” said Maatta, who finished with a goal—a blue line slap shot 33 seconds into the 3rd period to close the scoring—and an assist in 20:59 of ice time.

Third Period Melee

Things got downright raunchy in the final leg of the game, with 16 combined penalties being issued, including two from Crosby—the latter a cross check that was called directly after a faceoff midway through the third period, in which Guentzel was simultaneously called for the same penalty on a different player. 

Reaves made his exit after scuffling with Scott Hartnell, who also was removed from the game after a high sticking, a roughing and a 10-minute misconduct was called on the Nashville right winger.

“They are a tough team and we want to play the same way too,” said Maatta.  “We don’t want to give an inch.”

“That’s the way they play,” said Reaves, who is familiar with Nashville’s style, playing against them in the same conference when with the St. Louis Blues.

Saturday night’s alright for fightin’

Ryan Reaves and Nashville’s Austin Watson met near the faceoff circle on the Penguins’s end for an old fashioned, bareknuckle brouhaha early in the second period.  Reaves come out the decisive winner, landing several haymakers on Watson, before the refs broke the two up, handing them each five-minute majors.

Reaves went at it again with 17:11 left in the third period, when the ice linebacker put up his fists against Cody Mcleod, knocking the left wing to the ice after several connects.  Mcleod was thrown out of the game, while Reaves served his second major of the night, while receiving a roaring ovation from the home crowd.

Bouncing Back

Crosby talked about rallying from the embarrassing 10-1 loss in Chicago just two nights ago.

“It’s not a great feeling when you’re in it but sometimes it really highlights the game,” explained the captain.  “You really look hard at what you need to improve on in a game like that.  Maybe if it was a close game, we wouldn’t have taken much from it.  It was a good lesson for us.”

“I think we felt like we weren’t playing hard enough, and the urgency wasn’t there for the first couple games in general.  After a game like that I think you’re always excited to get back out there.  Just getting on pucks, playing a harder game, doing all of those little things like blocking shots- everything that goes into winning games.  It felt like we weren’t necessarily doing that consistently.”

After the moneyline

The Penguins finally took down their first win of the season as a chalky -160 favorite.  The total, which was set at six goals, went under for the first time this year.

Up next

The Penguins will travel to Washington to face the Capitals on Wednesday.  Puck drops at Verizon Center at 7:30.  

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