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3 takeaways from Knights’ win: Eichel shows off new postgame tradition

Updated March 1, 2023 - 11:37 pm

Jack Eichel, clad in a black Elvis wig and sunglasses in the T-Mobile Arena locker room, had a simple message for the Golden Knights after their 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.

“Let’s keep it rolling.”

Eichel got to participate in the Knights’ new player-of-the-game tradition — he said the wig and glasses were purchased at the beginning of the year — thanks to a two-goal outing against one of the NHL’s best teams.

It took strong performances from up and down the lineup to slow down the Hurricanes, however.

Eichel recorded his third multigoal game, left wing Reilly Smith scored a game-winning goal with 3:42 remaining, and the Knights’ defense was excellent throughout in their sixth home win in their last seven games.

That led to Eichel doing his best Elvis impression, and the club’s victory song “Never Going Home” by Kungs playing after an impressive display during a nationally televised game on TNT.

“It was just a great effort,” Eichel said. “A lot of resiliency from our group to stick with it.”

Things were tight all game between the Knights (36-19-6) and Hurricanes (39-12-8), two of the NHL’s top seven teams by points percentage.

Carolina finished with 26 shots on goal, tied for its fifth-fewest of the season. The Knights’ 20 were tied for their fewest in a game.

“There wasn’t a ton of room out there,” Eichel said.

The Knights found the first breakthrough. Eichel took a pass from left wing William Carrier and beat goaltender Frederik Andersen glove-side 5:11 into the second period.

Right wing Martin Necas equalized for the Hurricanes 7:51 later on a great inside move. Necas created enough space for himself to fire a wrist shot from the slot, and he rifled it past goaltender Adin Hill to tie the game 1-1.

Eichel gave the Knights the lead again on a breakaway with 1:09 remaining in the second. Trade acquisition Ivan Barbashev picked up the primary assist for his first point with his new team.

The Knights played a solid defensive third period, but Carolina still found a way to tie the game again when center Jordan Staal deflected a shot from defenseman Brent Burns into the net with 7:16 remaining.

Smith made sure the Knights had one last answer in them. Center William Karlsson started the play with a great stretch pass along the boards to right wing Michael Amadio, who found an open Smith by the left post.

Smith finished the play off to give himself his fifth 20-goal season and keep the Knights in first place in the Western Conference.

“We’ve let a few games slip out of our reach the last three weeks, and those points can come back and haunt you at the end of the year,” Smith said. “It meant a lot to be able to win this one and get two points.”

Here are three takeaways from the Knights on Wednesday:

1. Forward trade

The Knights acquired center Teddy Blueger from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday for a 2024 third-round pick and defense prospect Pete DiLiberatore.

Blueger, 28, has two goals and eight assists in 45 games this season. He was on the Penguins’ fourth line in their most recent game. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent with a $2.2 million cap hit.

“He’s a checking centerman,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I like the add. I think he makes us an even better defensive team.”

DiLiberatore, 22, was the Knights’ sixth-round pick in 2018. He has three assists in 22 games in the American Hockey League this season, and three assists in 18 games in the ECHL.

The team still has about $5.07 million in spending power before the trade deadline at noon Friday.

2. Injury updates

Knights goaltender Logan Thompson is “doing well” in his recovery from a lower-body injury but “nowhere near being on the ice,” Cassidy said.

Thompson is week to week after getting hurt Feb. 9 against the Minnesota Wild. He’s expected to return this season.

Cassidy also said center Nicolas Roy and goaltender Laurent Brossoit are not skating. Both are day to day with lower-body injuries.

Cassidy said Brossoit’s injury is separate from the one that led to the 29-year-old’s offseason hip surgery.

3. Barbashev’s T-Mobile Arena debut

Barbashev was noticeable in his first game with the Knights.

The 27-year-old, in addition to his assist, had one shot, one hit and a key block in the third period on defenseman Calvin de Haan. Barbashev admitted Wednesday morning he still doesn’t remember half of his new teammates’ names, but he’s doing his best to endear himself fast.

He even helped the Knights defend their late lead when Carolina pulled Andersen from the net.

“I was actually really surprised (Cassidy) didn’t put Jack out there for a hat trick,” Barbashev said. “It feels good.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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