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Eichel’s hat trick leads Golden Knights to 7-2 victory over Blue Jackets

The Vegas Golden Knights bounced back from a 7-2 loss with a 7-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday afternoon at T-Mobile Arena.

Jack Eichel scored a hat trick, and Alex Pietrangelo had a game-high four points.

Jiri Patera was excellent in his second career start, stopping 35 of 37 shots for a .946 save percentage to improve his record to 2-0-0.

For the eighth time this month, the Golden Knights notched the first goal of the game; for the eighth time this month, the Golden Knights went on to win after doing so.

The first of two power-play goals in the game came off the stick of Phil Kessel just over five minutes into the contest, as he collected a saucer feed from Pavel Dorofeyev for his 12th of the year.

Reilly Smith recorded the secondary assist on the play, extending his point streak to eight games.

Though the Golden Knights got off to a strong start, Columbus pushed back and had a lot of prime scoring opportunities as the more threatening team in the second half of the frame. However, Patera shut down all nine shots he faced to preserve Vegas’ 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.

The second period featured five goals, four of them belonging to the home team.

But first it was Columbus that lit the lamp, evening things up at 1-1 just 37 seconds into the middle frame. Kirill Marchenko cleaned up a rebound in front, beating Patera far-side to erase Vegas’ lead.

It took 10 minutes, but the Golden Knights responded with four straight, starting with Eichel’s first of the game.

Dorofeyev scored his third goal and recorded his second multi-point game with a power-play strike of his own as the second unit came through a second time. It was a dandy by Dorofeyev, who confidently scored short-side after a spin-o-rama.

Zach Whitecloud knocked the puck out of the air and into the net on a 3-on-2 for his fourth of the season to make it 4-1 at 16:24 of the second period, and Eichel scored his second of the game just 33 seconds later.

In total, the Golden Knights scored four goals in the span of 6:22 to take a commanding 5-1 lead.

The fourth second-period tally resulted in Daniil Tarasov getting replaced by former Golden Knights netminder Michael Hutchinson to face his former Henderson teammate in Patera.

But while the scoreboard was anything but close, that didn’t mean Patera had the day off. In fact, he had to be stellar, and he was.

Patera was rewarded with even more goal support 4:18 into the third period when Paul Cotter got on the board with his 13th of the season and second in the last five contests. Though Columbus wasn’t nearly as engaged given the score, it was still an impressive display of Cotter’s skill as he skated through the Columbus defenders and scored on the wraparound.

Eichel completed the hat trick 11:27 into the period after chipping the puck to himself and using a burst of speed to give himself time and space to beat Hutchinson far-side.

Columbus scored to make it 7-2 with 2:15 remaining, but Vegas had already run away with the game.

The Golden Knights came away with a significant two points thanks to a team-wide effort. Not only did Vegas find its scoring touch, but the Golden Knights went 2-for-2 on the power play after going 0-for-4 against Calgary.

Also, the game featured yet another remarkable performance by a Vegas netminder, as Patera was forced to come up with clutch saves on high-danger opportunities. The two goals he surrendered were both high-danger shots scored in or around the crease, the second of which had no effect on the game. If not for his play in the first period and at 1-1 in the second, this game could have gone very differently.

The top line responded to a particularly rough outing against the Flames with a dominant showing against Columbus, including a 17-10 edge in Corsi, 13-4 lead in shots and, most importantly, a 3-0 advantage in goals thanks to Eichel’s second hat trick of the season. That’s despite getting the least amount of ice time among Vegas’ four lines (10:46).

The Golden Knights entered the game tied with Los Angeles with 90 points, but Vegas took full advantage of its game in hand to move into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division (and Western Conference) with 92 points through 70 games.

Vegas is 14-3-2 since returning from the All-Star break.

Next up for the Golden Knights is a difficult three-game road trip against three division foes in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.