Golden Knights shut out by Avalanche in Jack Eichel’s debut
After more than 11 months away, center Jack Eichel made his long-awaited debut in the Golden Knights’ loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena.
Updated February 17, 2022 - 4:50 am
Jack Eichel didn’t wait long to test out his surgically repaired neck.
The Golden Knights center was on the receiving end of a hit 20 seconds into the game Wednesday and followed up by dishing out a hit of his own a few seconds later.
After more than 11 months away, Eichel made his long-awaited debut in the Knights’ 2-0 defeat to the Colorado Avalanche at T-Mobile Arena.
“I was having a pretty fun time out there,” Eichel said. “I know it’s going to get better. I didn’t expect it to be perfect tonight. There’s a lot to work on. It’s the first game.”
Eichel underwent artificial disk replacement surgery Nov. 12, eight days after he was acquired from the Knights in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres. He was cleared for contact after the All-Star break last week and appeared in his first game since March 7.
In 17:24 of ice time, Eichel finished with one shot on goal and went 8-for-19 on faceoffs.
He also took two penalties, but gave the announced crowd of 18,209 a glimpse of his skill when he sent a cross-ice pass that Evgenii Dadonov was unable to finish with less than four minutes remaining in the second period.
Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog broke a scoreless tie 41 seconds into the third period when he ripped a one-timer from the right faceoff circle past goalie Laurent Brossoit.
Mikko Rantanen added a power-play goal for the NHL-leading Avalanche with 4:15 remaining.
The Knights lost their second straight and fell further behind first-place Calgary in the Pacific Division standings.
“I don’t think you want to take two penalties and be on the ice for their goal, but there was some stuff to build on,” Eichel said. “Obviously, they’re a really good team. You get matched up against a pretty good line for part of the game. First game in 11 months, it’s good to just get back doing it.”
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Concern for Patrick
Forward Nolan Patrick was on the receiving end of a high hit from Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon on his first shift and did not return.
Patrick moved the puck to teammate William Carrier in the neutral zone and tried to get on the forecheck. MacKinnon prevented that from happening, as he cut off Patrick at the Colorado blue line and delivered a shoulder to his face.
Patrick fell on his back and then slid some 25 feet into the boards, where he remained on the ice for nearly two minutes before being helped to the locker room.
It was a scary scene for Patrick, 23, who missed the 2019-20 season with a migraine disorder that was brought on by a concussion. He also sustained an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion against Edmonton on Oct. 22 and missed 29 games.
“I haven’t looked at the hit, so I don’t want to make a comment,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I would hope, especially with Colorado and they’ve dealt with head injuries with (Bowen) Byram, that the players on both teams would have some sensitivity to guys like that in vulnerable positions. We’ll see. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. It’s not good for Nolan with his history and what it was.”
2. Goal drought
The Knights unveiled new forward lines, but were blanked in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history.
Leading scorer Chandler Stephenson, who was moved to the third line with Eichel’s arrival, was unable to convert on a short-handed chance midway through the first period and also was turned away by Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper in the second off the rush.
Dadonov was denied on a partial breakaway early in the third period, and Dylan Coghlan and Reilly Smith each hit the post.
The Knights have gone 139:46 without scoring since Smith’s goal 14 seconds into the third period against Edmonton on Feb. 8.
Kuemper made 29 saves and improved to 15-0-2 in his past 17 decisions.
“We got shut out, so you’re never happy,” DeBoer said. “You have to give their goalie some credit. I think that was going to be a 2-1 or 3-2 playoff-type game one way or another. Disappointed we didn’t stick one in the net. That might have changed things, and it wasn’t like we didn’t have anything.
“We did have a handful of looks. But in the playoffs, that’s all you’re going to get. That’s the difference in the game.”
3. Goalie duel
Laurent Brossoit showed he can carry the load in net while goalie Robin Lehner is out with an upper-body injury, turning in a strong effort with 23 stops.
Brossoit was fortunate with five minutes left in the second period when Landeskog’s shot hit the post and went off the netminder’s skate but somehow stayed out.
Landeskog halted Brossoit’s shutout streak at 100:41 with the go-ahead goal early in the third period.
“He made saves when we needed them, especially on the penalty kill,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s what you need. I liked his battle effort, especially in the second period there. They’re going to get some good quality chances with their skill up front, and we’re going to need more of that right now from him.”
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