Brad Hunt had never scored a game-winning goal in his six-year NHL career before his first-period tally held up in the Golden Knights’ 3-0 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday night.
He could get used to it.
“Every time you score in the NHL it’s a great feeling and for it to be the game winner was awesome,” Hunt said. “Let’s keep them coming.”
Hunt has spent many nights watching games from the press box as a healthy scratch, filling a valuable role on the roster as a defenseman who is able to stay sharp for whenever he is called upon. The 30-year-old Canadian is a steady presence on the blue line and has been a valuable asset on the power play when he’s active.
Hunt may be even better in the locker room as his positive attitude never seems to waver through the ups and downs of a rigorous season.
“I just come to the rink everyday with a smile,” he said. “We get to play hockey and we get to be here with a great group of guys. We’re essentially brothers in here. Every day is a good day in my eyes. It’s always nice to score and the guys give you a nice pat on the back. It’s nice.”
Coach Gerard Gallant knows he has a valuable commodity in the British Columbia native.
“Just the way he stays ready and he’s ready to play all the time (is most impressive),” Gallant said. “He’s just a solid guy that plays his role real good and when he gets the opportunity he goes in there and plays well. Real happy with his performance.”
The goal on Saturday night was just the sixth of Hunt’s career.
No looking back
Several Knights players have recently cited the team’s lack of early leads as a major factor in being a bit out of sorts as compared to last year as they have constantly chased deficits.
Hunt’s early goal gave them the opportunity to play from ahead on Saturday night and the result was one of the more complete efforts of the season.
“They keep skating and they keep playing the same way,” Carolina forward Justin Williams said of the Knights. “That is certainly something we want to try to do as well. You get the lead, you don’t want to sit back. You want to try to get the next one.”
Three is equal to four?
The Knights fourth line is making it hard to take them off the ice, which is leading to some interesting decisions from the team’s bench.
The fourth line of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, William Carrier and Ryan Reaves has averaged more ice time in two of the last four games than the third line of Cody Eakin, Ryan Carpenter and either Tomas Nosek or Oscar Lindberg.
It’s clear why Bellemare, Carrier and Reaves are earning the extra ice time too because they have more points combined (9) than the four skaters that play on the third line (7).
On the road
The first checkpoint on Max Pacioretty’s road to a return to action in time for a potentially emotional game in Montreal has been cleared.
Pacioretty, who has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury, traveled with the team to Toronto where the Knights will begin a four-game road trip Tuesday against the Maple Leafs.
Gallant didn’t indicate when Pacioretty would be back in the lineup, but the third game of the trip is a Saturday night date in Montreal where Pacioretty played for 10 seasons, including the last three as captain of the storied franchise.