It’s official: Jack is back.
For the first time in nearly a year, Jack Eichel was back on the ice, back in game action and back where he belongs.
However, for the first time in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights were shut out in consecutive games.
After losing 6-0 to Calgary last week, the Knights were held without a goal in a 2-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Though the loss somewhat overshadowed his debut, Eichel played 17:32 in a highly-entertaining matchup featuring stellar goaltending at both ends of the ice.
In fact, Laurent Brossoit was, undoubtedly, the best player for the Knights all night. He finished the game with 23 saves on 25 shots for a .920 save percentage, holding the best team in the NHL off the board through the first two periods and limiting said team to one goal through 55 minutes.
After shutting out Edmonton last week, Brossoit kept his shutout streak alive for 100:41 until Gabriel Landeskog netted the game-winner in the first minute of the third period.
Colorado added another goal with less than five minutes left in regulation, and Avalanche netminder Darcy Kuemper made save after save to keep Vegas off the board for the 2-0 victory.
Though it was a scoreless game through 40 minutes, this was a typical Colorado-Vegas contest replete with fast-paced action and back-and-forth opportunities.
Both teams traded chances through the first two periods, but Landeskog came closest to opening the scoring when his shot hit the post and then Brossoit’s skate before sliding along the goal line.
However, Landeskog course-corrected just 41 seconds into the third period, giving Colorado a 1-0 lead on a one-timed blast that beat Brossoit short-side.
Gabriel Landeskog breaks the in Vegas with an absolute rip. pic.twitter.com/NfJnR7SlC5— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 17, 2022
The Avalanche added a second goal with just under five minutes left in the third period.
Once again, it was Landeskog who got things started, as he forced Alex Pietrangelo to take a tripping penalty to prevent a breakaway, giving Colorado its third man-advantage of the game with 5:01 remaining in the third.
Nathan MacKinnon’s crisp cross-zone feed to Mikko Rantanen left Brossoit stretched out along the ice in front of an exposed cage, giving Rantanen time to calmly gather the puck and fire it top-shelf for the insurance marker at 15:45.
Mikko Rantanen going for where the are kept. pic.twitter.com/8eMfME40Sn— NHL (@NHL) February 17, 2022
The Knights pulled Brossoit with 2:28 remaining but were unable to beat Kuemper, who finished the game with 29 saves on 29 shots.
The Knights have now gone 139 minutes and 46 seconds without a goal going back to Reilly Smith’s tally 14 seconds into the third period of the Knights’ 4-0 win against Edmonton last week.
Tonight’s loss allows Calgary to extend its lead to three points (with two games in hand) in the Pacific Division standings.
But perhaps the biggest loss of the night came in the first period when MacKinnon delivered a shoulder to the head of Nolan Patrick.
Patrick did not return to the game, and his status remains uncertain. However, given his history of head injuries and migraines, it doesn’t look good for the young forward, who could miss extended time once again.
Patrick played just 14 seconds in the contest, forcing Pete DeBoer to mix and match all night.
One combination that did not work from the get-go, however, was the new-look second line of William Karlsson, Smith and Mattias Janmark. Specifically, the line trailed 16-0 in Corsi in 6:16 of ice time, prompting DeBoer to make a switch and reunite the Misfit Line in the third period.
The Misfit Line, by contrast, held a 10-1 edge in Corsi in 4:18.
But all eyes were on Eichel.
It was no surprise that he started the game. He won the opening faceoff but went on to take two penalties in the first 20:27 of his Vegas tenure. Brossoit and the Knights killed off both, but it wasn’t an overwhelming performance for the young superstar, who was on the ice for Landeskog’s goal.
He finished the night with a minus-one rating, four penalty minutes, one shot, one hit, one giveaway and one takeaway while winning 42 percent of his faceoffs in 17:32 of ice time. He played nearly two minutes (1:50) on the power play.
But it’s important to remember that this is Eichel’s first game in nearly a year; all things considered, it was a good start. Plus, it was impressive to see him step into this particular game since it was the Knights’ most up-tempo game of the season. Not to mention the fact that Colorado has incredible speed and skill and is the best team in the NHL.
Eichel showed flashes of the brilliant skill he’s known for, including a gorgeous cross-ice pass to linemate Evgenii Dadonov towards the end of the second period. Dadonov missed high, but it was a perfect set-up and a preview of what’s to come from Eichel.
The top line of Eichel, Max Pacioretty and Dadonov finished the night with a 48.15 percent Corsi share and 50.07 percent expected goal share with a 2-1 advantage in high-danger Corsi in 11:28 of ice time. Along with Stephenson, the top line led Vegas forwards in ice time against MacKinnon.
It may not have been a great night for that line, but Dadonov had a strong performance; he looked rejuvenated and faster than he has all year, generating six individual shot attempts at 5-on-5, one of which was a breakaway.
Nicolas Roy also was noticeable throughout the game, and the Jonathan Marchessault and Stephenson combination set up a ton of great chances. Ben Hutton quietly had one of his best games as a Golden Knight.
But it was Brossoit who shined the brightest, which is not insignificant, especially considering Robin Lehner is still being evaluated with an upper-body injury. Brossoit kept up with Kuemper and the Avs for most of the night and gave Vegas every chance to win this game, which is very encouraging moving forward.
Vegas will look to get back in the win column Friday night against Los Angeles.