Sports

Jack Eichel channels ‘power’ of Buffalo fans in revenge hat trick

Jack Eichel channels ‘power’ of Buffalo fans in revenge hat trick

Buffalo — Jack Eichel Knew what was coming. Turns out, it’s his own revenge.

The Golden Knights Forward — and former Sabers Captain — was in town to face his old squad Thursday night for the second time since Buffalo traded him to Vegas last November. The last time he was at KeyBank Center, on March 10, Eichel had zero points in a 3-1 loss to Vegas in the face of consistent, loud boos.

In his return Thursday, Eichel lifted the Golden Knights with a third-period hat trick and four-point performance. 7-4 winextended their winning streak to nine games and an NHL-best 13-2-0 record.

After each score, Eichel — on a seven-game point streak of his own — taunted the crowd with the same exuberance that had shown him never ending from the moment his skates hit the ice 35 seconds into the game.

“I think last year I didn’t know what to expect,” Eichel said. “I had an emotional connection — I still do — to this city and these people. I came into this year knowing what I was going to get and what kind of reception I was going to get. I just tried to harness the power.”

In another era, baseball caps might rain for the memory of three Eichel goals in Buffalo. On Thursday, there were only a few gold domes donated on the ice from Vegas fans in attendance.

“I don’t know if I was [the villain] Or not,” Eichel said of his finish. “It seemed like a lot of people in Vegas jerseys and gear were here, too, so we had a lot of support. … [The fans] Obviously the whole night was on me. Nice to have one [initially]. It was a big point in the game for our team.”

His final score was an empty-net tally in the final seconds of the game. Eichel was stoned by the Sabers netminder Eric Comrie Enjoyed two solo chances and an easy goal early in the game.

“[You’re] Trying to take advantage of it if you can,” he said [Comrie] Had my number a few times in a breakup. So, sometimes it’s easier to score when he’s not in the net.”

The Golden Knights’ previous visit to Buffalo in March was an expectedly emotional moment for Eichel after six years with the club that took him second overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. Eichel was meant to be the Sabres’ savior. Instead, the parties split on bad terms stemming from an unapproved medical procedure Eichel sought to repair a disc injury in his neck that Buffalo would not approve.

Still, Eichel was caught off guard by the poor reception fans gave him in March; There were even boos during his tribute video. The center was so rowdy that night, he clapped back at the fans who had once applauded him.

“It was the loudest I’ve ever heard in this place,” Eichel said in March. “Really. It’s only been seven years and I’m about to get down to their game. They must be [have been] Bumping because they wish I was still here.”

His heat-of-the-moment reaction set the stage for Eichel to endure another tough reception Thursday. It included more chatter, none louder than Eichel’s assistance Alex PietrangeloIts third-period tally was announced, or when its own goals were noted.

Eichel also showed some hilarity — especially when Comrie stonewalled him one after the other in episodes one and two. The initial stop was followed by a chorus of “Jack, you sack” chants.

It was gratifying for his Vegas teammates to see Eichel face those critics and respond so well.

“Three goals and an assist in a game where the crowd is on you like that? That’s one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen,” the Knights captain said. Mark Stone said “I know people here think he doesn’t have character. But my God, we’ve seen what Jack really is. He’s been carrying a huge burden for us. And to be able to do that for him tonight, I know it’s special for him. I’m almost Getting emotional is just part of it.”


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