Golden Knights topple Sabres 7-4 as Jack Eichel scores hat trick in third period
The Vegas Golden Knights won their ninth consecutive game and finished their road trip with a perfect 5-0-0 record thanks to a 7-4 victory against the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night at KeyBank Center.
It was a dominant performance by Jack Eichel, who recorded his first career points against his former team with a hat trick and an assist.
Eichel’s four points, all of which came in the third period, extended his point streak to seven games; he has recorded six goals and 12 points in that stretch and now has 19 points in 15 games this season.
The Golden Knights also got goals from Chandler Stephenson, Phil Kessel, Paul Cotter and Alex Pietrangelo, while Buffalo’s four goals came courtesy of Tage Thompson (2), Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Asplund.
Former Golden Knights forwards Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs both finished with a minus-two rating, though Tuch hit the post with the goalie pulled late in the third.
Vegas got on the board first for the fourth straight game and for the 11th time in 15 games this season.
Stephenson scored on the rebound off a Jonathan Marchessault shot, giving Vegas a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal 5:44 into the contest.
The Sabres responded with a power-play goal of their own when Tage Thompson beat Logan Thompson with 3:37 remaining in the first.
The Golden Knights quickly answered, but the goal was overturned after Buffalo challenged for offside.
Kessel gave Vegas a 2-1 lead with his second of the year just 3:43 into the middle frame. But once again, Buffalo struck on the power play, marking just the third time this season that Vegas surrendered multiple power-play goals. It was Casey Mittelstadt who scored for the Sabres to make it a 2-2 game at 14:09 of the second period.
But Vegas took the lead once again less than three minutes later.
In his first game in the lineup since Oct. 18, Cotter lit the lamp, and it was a dandy. Nicolas Roy recovered a turnover and fed Cotter on the breakaway for his second of the season. He and Roy assisted on Kessel’s goal earlier in the frame.
The Golden Knights carried that 3-2 lead into the third period, just in time for Eichel to take over the game.
He recorded his first career point against Buffalo with an assist on Pietrangelo’s first of the year.
Just 2:21 later, he scored his first of three on the night, giving Vegas a 5-2 lead just 6:13 into the third period.
Tage Thompson scored his second of the game to take a little wind out of Vegas’ sails. Logan Thompson had no chance on the play, which made it a 5-3 game just before the midway point of the final frame.
But just under five minutes later, Eichel scored his second of the night, racing down the ice to collect Stephenson’s pass before beating Eric Comrie five-hole. Eichel’s eighth of the season restored Vegas’ three-goal lead.
Once again, the Sabres tried to play spoiler. The Golden Knights got a late power play, but Asplund scored while shorthanded with 3:29 remaining. The Sabres pulled Comrie, setting up a 6-on-4 for 1:12 after a Reilly Smith penalty negated Vegas’ power play.
But it was Eichel who had the last word, completing the hat trick with the empty-net goal with just eight seconds left in the game.
It was a magical night for Eichel, who recorded his third career hat trick, all at KeyBank Center. He became the first member of the Golden Knights to record four points in one period.
Stephenson also had four points in the game, including assists on Eichel’s first two goals. Pietrangelo recorded three points (one goal, two assists).
Quietly, Alec Martinez’s plus-five performance set a franchise record for the best single-game plus/minus mark.
Logan Thompson finished the entertaining tilt with 31 saves on 35 shots for his sixth straight win, improving his record to 8-2-0 on the year.
It was far from a perfect performance by the Golden Knights, who gave up four goals, including two power-play goals and a shorthanded tally.
However, it was the first time Vegas won despite giving up two power-play goals, and the Golden Knights found ways to preserve their lead (they never trailed) and come away with two points.
Vegas has managed to do that regularly this season, and it has led to a 13-2-0 start.
The Golden Knights return home for a three-game homestand starting Saturday night against St. Louis. They will look to extend their winning streak to 10 games, which would tie the franchise record.