The story writes itself.
The Vegas Golden Knights trailed 2-1 with 46 seconds remaining in regulation.
With the extra attacker on the ice, Jack Eichel got tossed from the faceoff circle.
Cody Eakin won the draw, and the Sabres shot the puck around the zone.
Eichel managed to keep the puck in at the blue line and tried to get it deep.
Alex Tuch got in the way.
Tuch chased the puck down the ice; by the time he caught up to it, he was nearly at the goal line, but he fired a rocket of a shot towards the empty net, emphatically sealing the 3-1 win for the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night at Keybank Center.
Alex Tuch runs through Eichel, 3-1 ENG #LetsGoBuffalo #VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/KpC94vQsdK— Buffalo Hockey moments (@SabresPlays) March 11, 2022
The night was supposed to be about Eichel, and the Knights had to come away with two points. But Tuch, Peyton Krebs and the Sabres had other ideas, and Craig Anderson backstopped the winning effort with a 30-save performance to earn career win No. 300.
Eichel played hard all night despite hearing boos from the crowd every time he stepped onto the ice (and throughout his tribute video).
Some applause from the crowd as the Sabres’ tribute video for Jack Eichel shows the former captain’s work at Roswell Park. pic.twitter.com/3Fz1JXk39U— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) March 11, 2022
But it was a brutal defeat for a Knights team that cannot seem to get things right. It was the club’s second straight loss to a non-playoff team, and the Knights have now been held to just four goals in the last three games.
Vegas’ opponents in those games?
Ottawa, Philadelphia and Buffalo.
The Knights continue to lose ground in a very tight battle in the Pacific Division race, and tonight’s game was another wasted opportunity. In a must-win game, the Golden Knights simply weren’t good enough from start to finish.
The Golden Knights came out completely flat and found themselves trailing in the first half of the opening frame.
It was none other than Krebs who opened the scoring, lighting the lamp against his former team just under eight minutes into the game. Krebs deflected a centering feed past Laurent Brossoit to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead.
Peep that wonderful celly from Peyton Krebs.— NHL (@NHL) March 11, 2022
: @ESPNPlus ➡️ https://t.co/CLqyKVUD2q pic.twitter.com/y1iMDgNf8e
Krebs’ tally came in a busy frame for the former Vegas first-round pick, who drew a power play, took two penalties and scored his fourth of the year.
It was all Sabres in the first; Buffalo jumped out to an 8-0 lead in shots, and the Knights went 0-for-3 on the power play.
The Knights’ effort was much improved in the second period, as Vegas dominated possession and outshot the Sabres 15-3. However, Anderson kept everything out of the net, including the Knights’ four high-danger attempts.
Even so, Vegas didn’t force Anderson to make desperation saves. There weren’t many truly urgent shifts, and the Knights had nothing to show for their efforts through 40 minutes.
The game took an ugly turn with two fights breaking out in the second period; the first was a quick bout, as John Hayden took Ben Hutton down in just a few swipes. The second was more evenly-matched, but it ended with Keegan Kolesar throwing some cheap shots at Buffalo defenseman Casey Fitzgerald once he was down on the ice.
Kolesar was given an extra minor, and Fitzgerald eventually left the game and did not return.
It took Vegas 52 minutes for the Knights to get on the board, but Hutton beat Anderson on a floater from the blue line.
BAR DOWN HUTTON!— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 11, 2022
All tied up in Buffalo pic.twitter.com/OKjveP9DpE
William Carrier, who was the Knights’ best player all night, set the screen and dodged the shot at the right time, taking Anderson’s eyes away and helping Hutton net his third of the year.
The goal gave Vegas an obvious lift, but Jonathan Marchessault took a retaliatory penalty with 5:27 remaining, and that proved to be the turning point in the game.
Buffalo capitalized on the opportunity as Victor Olofsson beat Brossoit on a perfect top-shelf corner shot to regain the one-goal lead.
Victor Olofsson's laser stands at the game winner for the @BuffaloSabres! pic.twitter.com/4H8opWNIlN— NHL (@NHL) March 11, 2022
Vegas was unable to even things up, and Tuch put the game away with 36 seconds remaining.
Eichel played well despite not finding the scoresheet. He was particularly effective on the backcheck, racing back to break up odd-man rushes and clean up Vegas’ mistakes. He didn’t have much help from his teammates, and the power play looked as off as ever, going 0-for-4 when all was said and done.
He finished the night with a minus-one rating, two shots and one block in 17:50 of ice time.
But his frustration was evident after the game, as he had some harsh words for the Buffalo fanbase.
“It only took seven years and me leaving for them to get into the game,” he said.
Jack Eichel with some heavy words for the Sabres fans booing him tonight.— Brian Chojnacki (@BroadcastingBri) March 11, 2022
“They must’ve been booing me because they wish I was still here.” @WGRZ #Sabres pic.twitter.com/MQyMvMH8SI
That was merely a snippet of an interview; at other points, Eichel was complimentary of the crowd and his supporters, but it was a telling comment from the former Sabres captain.
He and the Golden Knights will do it all again tomorrow night when they take on the Penguins in Pittsburgh.