Eichel scores twice as Golden Knights pull off impressive 3-2 win against Hurricanes
The Vegas Golden Knights secured another statement win with a 3-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The win, which snapped a two-game losing streak (0-1-1), gives Vegas a 7-2-1 record in its last 10 games, and it came against one of the best teams in the NHL.
Jack Eichel scored twice, and Reilly Smith netted his 20th of the season for the game-winner with under four minutes left in the third period.
Adin Hill made his second consecutive start and was strong once again, turning aside 24 of 26 shots for a .923 save percentage.
Ivan Barbashev recorded the primary assist on Eichel’s second goal for his first point as a member of the Golden Knights in just his second game since being acquired from St. Louis.
After a scoreless opening frame, Eichel gave the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the second period with a laser from the slot that beat Hurricanes netminder Frederik Andersen top-shelf.
But less than six minutes later, Carolina evened things up thanks to a strong individual effort by Martin Necas, who skated into the zone, made his way around Alex Pietrangelo and then beat Hill far-side.
The Golden Knights grabbed another lead later in the period as Eichel scored his second of the night with just 1:09 left in the frame.
Barbashev sprung Eichel for the breakaway, and Eichel buried it five-hole.
Carolina bounced back and took control in the third period, as the Hurricanes outshot the Golden Knights 11-3 and held a 31-6 edge in shot attempts. Eventually, one of those broke through, as Jordan Staal tipped home a Brent Burns point shot for the equalizer with just 7:16 left in the period.
The ice was tilted in the third, but the Golden Knights had the last say.
An outstanding bank pass by William Karlsson set up Michael Amadio at the blue line; Amadio managed to stay onside and then delayed before sending a cross-ice feed to Smith for the backdoor tally.
It was Smith’s 20th goal of the season, making him the second player on the team to reach the milestone (Eichel), a feat Smith has accomplished five times in his career and three times with the Golden Knights.
It was Smith’s first goal since Feb. 9 and just his second in 2023, but it was a clutch play to cap off a strong game for the Golden Misfit.
The Hurricanes called timeout and pulled Andersen with just under two minutes remaining. The Golden Knights had given up a goal in the final minute of regulation twice in their previous four games, but they held the blue line with a strong final stand to close out the win against Carolina. Notably, Barbashev was on the ice to kill off the 6-on-5 situation in just his second game with the club.
Over the last 10 games, Eichel has played some of his best hockey as a Golden Knight, which he acknowledged after the game.
“I think this last stretch of games here coming off the bye week has probably been the best I’ve played here and probably in some time,” he said. “I just try to enjoy myself and play with some confidence, attack a bit. I think it’s a byproduct of how our team’s been playing. … We’re taking care of our own end and we’re finding ways to win hockey games.”
Tonight was no exception.
It wasn’t a perfect game, and it looked as though Carolina might steal it in the third period, but Vegas made adjustments throughout the game and capitalized on its scoring opportunities. The Golden Knights were strong on the blue line all night, forcing Carolina to take perimeter shots for much of the contest.
The Golden Knights were patient against a strong defensive club, waiting for the right opportunities to strike and making sure to finish those chances. In fact, two of the Golden Knights’ three goals came on the rush, with Eichel’s breakaway and Smith’s late marker.
It also was a night where the top players stepped up. Alec Martinez and Pietrangelo had noticeable games, blocking shots at key moments and making plays to stall Carolina’s efforts. Eichel had another game-breaking performance and now has seven goals and 11 points in his last 10 games.
Yet again, however, the power play was an eyesore in an otherwise-encouraging performance. The Golden Knights had the only power play of the game, but it was difficult to tell which team had the man-advantage considering Carolina had more offensive-zone time than the Golden Knights.
Vegas’ power play continues to struggle mightily without Mark Stone; it will be interesting to see if Vegas addresses this ahead of Friday’s trade deadline.
The Golden Knights next play Friday against another hot team in the New Jersey Devils. Timo Meier is expected to make his Devils debut in the contest.