Pierre-Edouard Bellemare admitted he couldn’t have scripted a better first shift in his T-Mobile Arena return.
Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar elected to start his fourth-line center against his former team Friday, and Bellemare delivered. He won the opening faceoff, then attacked.
Twenty-eight seconds into the game he picked off a wayward Mark Stone pass, shot and scored for his third goal. It began an incredible homecoming for the former Golden Misfit, who played two years for the Knights after being selected in the 2017 expansion draft.
He finished with a career-high three points (one goal, two assists) in the Avalanche’s 6-1 victory.
“The puck … it was like a magnet,” Bellemare said. “I fired it and it was in the net so I’m like: ‘The heck just happened?’ ”
The game was emotional even after the goal for Bellemare. The grinder, penalty killer and former alternate captain said he had “no bad words” for the Knights after leaving this offseason to sign a two-year, $3.6 million contract with Colorado.
His former teammates didn’t have any for him either. Defenseman Nick Holden said Bellemare “was friends with everybody.”
The 34-year-old wasn’t sure Knights fans would be as welcoming. Bellemare still has a house in Las Vegas and was in town as recently as early September for the birth of his daughter. He didn’t know if that would make up for the fact that he was going to take the ice wearing a different sweater.
Those doubts disappeared early. The Knights played a tribute video for Bellemare with 3:56 left in the first period after the Avalanche took a penalty. It led to a loud ovation.
“I just felt thankful,” Bellemare said. “Thank God the video wasn’t too long because I might’ve had a hard time focusing on the kill right after.”
— Ben Gotz (@BenSGotz) October 25, 2019
Bellemare recovered after that moving moment to record two assists for the best offensive night of his career.
He also helped the Avalanche hold the Knights to 0-for-4 on the power play.
It was an impressive performance from a player who began his career in Europe and didn’t get his first NHL opportunity until he was 29. Three years after that, the Knights gave him another one. Bellemare will be forever grateful for that.
“I (feel) like (if) some guys get a video after 10 years, it makes sense,” Bellemare said. “Two years, I was telling the guys like ‘C’mon man, I had (31) points in two years,’ but I’m thankful. Really thankful.”
Nevada Day jerseys
The Knights debuted specialty white warmup jerseys in honor of Nevada Day. They featured the “Battle Born” banner and two pieces of sagebrush from the Nevada state flag, with the Knights’ secondary logo in the middle instead of a five-pointed silver star.
The jerseys also had two patches featuring the city of Las Vegas and city of Henderson logos.
The jerseys were awarded as part of the team’s 51/49 raffle, with the proceeds benefiting the Vegas Golden Knights Foundation.