Updated March 19, 2023 - 7:15 pm
It was the skate lace that caught Jack Eichel’s eye.
The Golden Knights center was rummaging through a black plastic bin in the third period of Sunday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, looking for a hat that stood out. It was his fault all the caps were on the ice in the first place. He sent dozens flying from the T-Mobile Arena stands when he finished off a Knights’ 7-2 rout with his second hat trick of the season.
Eichel grabbed the one with skate lace on the front, tossed it to head equipment manager Chris Davidson-Adams on the bench and got ready for the next faceoff. To the victors go the spoils. And Eichel helped the Knights win for the fifth time in six games with his 24th, 25th and 26th goals of the season.
The plan is for the memento to be displayed in the locker room or trainers’ room at City National Arena as part of a new Knights’ tradition for every hat trick. Eichel got it started with the team’s first one at home since May 8, 2021.
“I’ve never done it before,” said Eichel, his chosen hat hanging over his left shoulder in his locker stall. “It’s a cool tradition.”
Eichel’s fourth career hat trick and the 10th in Knights history powered the team’s romp against the lowly Blue Jackets (21-41-7), who lost their third straight to remain at the bottom of the NHL standings.
He kicked off the high-scoring second period that all but sealed the win.
After thinking he passed up opportunities to shoot in the first, Eichel beat goaltender Daniil Tarasov with a shot from 45 feet away, outside the left faceoff dot. His first goal gave the Knights a 2-1 lead with 9:25 left in the period.
He scored his second off what he called “a fortunate bounce” after goals from rookie right wing Pavel Dorofeyev and defenseman Zach Whitecloud extended the lead to 4-1. Eichel shot from the goal line, but the puck deflected off Tarasov’s left pad and in with 3:03 to go until the second intermission.
The hats came falling after he scored off the rush with 8:33 to play. Rookie left wing Paul Cotter gave the Knights a 6-1 lead earlier in the period, then Eichel scored one more time to help the team match its season high for goals.
He became the third player in franchise history with multiple hat tricks. Center William Karlsson has three and right wing Jonathan Marchessault two.
The hat Eichel chose ensured this one will be remembered for a while, especially because it helped the Knights (43-21-6) respond after a 7-2 defeat Thursday against Calgary.
“Maybe 30 years from now people will say, ‘Oh, Jack got one on March 19,’” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Let’s get it going. See if it sticks. You never know.”
Here are three takeaways from the win:
1. Patera’s moment
Eichel got the hat trick, but left wing Reilly Smith said someone else was probably the Knights’ best player.
Rookie goaltender Jiri Patera made 35 saves to win his second NHL start. The 24-year-old improved to 2-0, making the Knights the first team to start five goaltenders in multiple games this season.
Making it even better was that Patera’s parents and best friend flew in from Prague for the game. His performance was worth the trip, as he made several important saves before the Knights pulled away.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Patera told the KKGK postgame show. “(To) see my parents watch me play is just a great experience, especially in front of this crowd.”
2. Red-hot rookie
Dorofeyev has wasted no time making an impression four games after being called up.
The 22-year-old had a goal and primary assist on the power play for the second multipoint game of his career. He has three goals and two assists since joining the team after right wing Keegan Kolesar’s upper-body injury.
“He’s done a great job,” said Smith, who extended his point streak to a career-best eight games. “It’s nice to be able to play with a young kid like that who wants to use his skill all the time and he’s not afraid to make plays.”
3. Pietrangelo shines
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo played a huge role by assisting on four goals.
He tied the franchise record for assists and points by a defenseman in a game. He also matched his career high for points in a game.
Pietrangelo is the seventh defenseman with four assists in a game this season.