Golden Knights’ fourth line steps up in big way in Game 1

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LAS VEGAS — If you were wondering when Ryan Reaves last scored in consecutive games, you’d have to go back to Jan. 29-30, 2015 when he was a member of the St. Louis Blues.

For Tomas Nosek, you don’t have to go back as far to find his biggest goal before Monday night. Back on Oct. 10, Nosek scored the first ever home goal for the Vegas Golden Knights. 

A wild Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Golden Knights and Washington Capitals had a bit of everything. Rapper Lil Jon performed outside T-Mobile Arena; a Tron-looking drumline led a parade, featuring comedian Carrot Top, into the building; Michael Buffer announced the starting lineups; Oh, and we can’t forget another memorable pre-game intro featuring the knight slaying more foes.

And then the game started, and in hockey-related happenings, Vegas’ depth was the difference in their 6-4 victory.

[Golden Knights beat Capitals in Stanley Cup Final Game 1 thriller]

Entering Game 1, only six of the Golden Knights’ goals from forwards in the playoffs came from their bottom six. Tom Wilson gave the Capitals a 4-3 lead 1:10 into the third period, and then Vegas’ fourth line took over.

Ninety-one seconds after Wilson’s goal, Reaves tied the game, thanks to a missed cross-check that helped him clear some room in front of Braden Holtby‘s crease.

During Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, it was Reaves’ deflection that snapped a 1-1 tie against the Winnipeg Jets midway through the second period that ended up being the difference in the elimination game.

“I was saving [the goals],” Reaves said Monday night. “I told everybody I was going to save them for the playoffs.”

Nosek would provide the game’s fourth lead change seven minutes later after finishing off a lovely pass from Shea Theodore.

An empty-netter later from Nosek with seconds remaining would seal Game 1 in the Golden Knights’ favor. 

“Those guys, they don’t get enough credit,” said Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault. “They play so hard and don’t get as much ice time as they wanted. Getting those big goals there at the end, it’s huge. I’m really happy for them.”

Marchessault is one-third of the Golden Knights’ top line that has provided 18 goals this postseason. A staple of Cup winners is production from their bottom lines The Capitals have received that from their group, but Vegas didn’t need that through three rounds and it hasn’t hindered them. In a Game 1 where no lead was safe, there wasn’t a reliance on their top lines to carry the burden.

“They played unbelievable. They were the difference in the game tonight,” said defenseman Nate Schmidt. “They are the ones that separated themselves in the way that they played. It’s always great to see those guys to be able to produce and be a part of such a tight game, especially when it comes down to the end there.”

Both coaches weren’t happy with how Game 1 played out, but Gerard Gallant was a little more upbeat considering his team now only needs three more wins to capture the Stanley Cup. Adjustments will be made, tweaking will be done, video sessions will be held. But for Barry Trotz and his players, they’ll likely chalk up what happened to defensive breakdown and sloppy play in their own zone. Reaves doesn’t believe his line will factor much into any of their opponents’ discussions ahead of Game 2.

“I don’t think they’re going to be having meetings about the fourth line,” said Reaves. “I doubt that’s the problem.”

MORE:
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.