William Karlsson did plenty of damage to his former team on Tuesday.
Imagine if the Golden Knights forward was more efficient on breakaways.
Karlsson scored twice, including a GIF-worthy goal in the third period, as the Knights topped the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-3 before 18,231 fans at T-Mobile Arena.
“It was a special game but I tried not to think about it that way,” Karlsson said. “I wanted to focus on myself and do the things I do well, and I think I did that pretty good.”
Defenseman Brad Hunt notched his first goal of the season, and James Neal and Colin Miller also scored during a span of 4:16 in the second period to put the Knights up 4-2.
Erik Haula added an empty-net goal, and Jonathan Marchessault, who began his career in the Blue Jackets organization, added two assists.
The Knights (32-11-4, 68 points) moved within one victory of tying the NHL record for victories by a team in its inaugural season and remained one point behind Tampa Bay for the top spot in the NHL standings.
The Knights improved to a league-best 19-2-2 at home and have not lost in regulation at T-Mobile Arena since a 3-0 setback to the Dallas Stars on Nov. 28.
Karlsson, who scored 16 goals in 165 games over two-plus seasons with the Blue Jackets before being left unprotected in the expansion draft, backhanded a loose puck past Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky 8:22 into the first period.
Tortorella unsuccessfully challenged the goal contending that Karlsson interferred with Bobrovsky.
Karlsson was stopped on two breakaways by Bobrovsky, but took a spectacular lob pass from defenseman Shea Theodore midway through the third and went backhand for his 27th goal of the season and a 5-2 advantage.
“Even in the first period I don’t think we were competitive enough,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “They’re a fast team. They capitalize on winning battles. The second period obviously got away from us, so we’ve got to move on to Arizona and put this behind us.”
The Knights fell behind 2-1 in the second when Columbus’ Josh Anderson finished off a 3-on-1 rush after Cody Eakin opted for the extra pass on a golden chance from the slot moments earlier.
But the Knights responded a little more than a minute later during a 4-on-4 situation, as Miller rocketed a shot past Bobrovsky to tie the game at 7:59.
Hunt then put the Knights ahead less than two minutes later when his drive from the point went in off the underside of the crossbar for a 3-2 advantage.
“It felt incredible. I almost fell, actually, I was so excited,” Hunt said. “Great pass from (Theodore) and great job by guys getting to the front of the net. It’s a good thing to get off your shoulders and it’s so special to do it at home in front of our great fans.”
Neal then tapped home his 22nd of the season with 7:45 left in the second to put the Knights up 4-2.
“I think we started establishing more of a forecheck,” Neal said. “They came out with a good push, and I think when we simplified our game, we started playing better. That’s all it was.”