LAS VEGAS (AP)The Vegas Golden Knights needed to respond to a five-goal loss just three nights earlier, and Jack Eichel made sure they did it emphatically.
Eichel scored three goals Sunday, and the Golden Knights used a four-goal second period take control and beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-2.
This was Eichel’s fourth career hat trick and second this season. The last one for Eichel, who leads Vegas with 26 goals, was Nov. 10 when he returned to Buffalo to face his former teammates.
Phil Kessel and Pavel Dorofeyev each had a goal and an assist, and Paul Cotter and Zach Whitecloud also scored for the Golden Knights, and Alex Pietrangelo had a career-high four assists. Dorofeyev has five points in four games since being called up from the AHL.
Jiri Patera, called up March 9, made 35 stops in just his second career start to move to 2-0.
“I think one good thing is the contributions throughout the lineup,” Eichel said. “We’ve had five goalies now play for us, and I think all of them have done a great job. So I think different guys are stepping up and playing well, and that’s what you need.”
Patera’s counterpart, Daniil Tarasov, was pulled with 3:03 left in the second period after giving up five goals on 28 shots, including four goals in a 4:22 span that broke open a 1-1 game. He was replaced by Michael Hutchinson, who was traded by Vegas to Columbus as part of the deal for goalie Jonathan Quick.
Kirill Marchenko and Liam Foudy scored the Blue Jackets’ goals, and Patrik Laine had two assists.
Columbus coach Brad Larsen was not on the bench because of a death in the family, the team announced. Associate coach Pascal Vincent was in charge.
“In the second period, we had our chances,” Vincent said. “They took advantage of their chances, and their goalie was pretty good. That’s the difference between a good team and a team in our position right now. We need to be able to sustain that pace for 60 minutes.”
The Knights responded to Thursday’s 7-2 loss to Calgary by winning for the fifth time in six games and eighth time in the past 10. They lead the Western Conference with 92 points, two more than Pacific Division rival Los Angeles.
Columbus has 49 points, the fewest in the NHL, and the Blue Jackets are 1-6-1 in their past eight games.
“You can’t lose to a team that’s in the bottom of the standings,” said Knights forward Reilly Smith, who extended his career-high points streak to eight games with a first-period assist. “I think we did a good job, especially the tail end of the second period getting pucks in the net. I think we’re pretty fortunate with some of the bounces, but they go a long way when you’re able to push a team down and kind of take away their confidence like that.”
KNIGHTS GOALIES NEAR RETURNS
Patera is likely to be sent back down to the AHL affiliate in Henderson with two injured goalies joining the Knights on their upcoming road trip. Logan Thompson has been out since Feb. 9 and Laurent Brossoit since Feb. 27, each with a lower-body injury. Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said he will evaluate the goalie situation, which also includes Quick, over the final 12 regular-season games.
“We don’t have enough room enough to get everyone what they want,” Cassidy said. “’They’re going to have to be open minded with us knowing that there’s a limited amount of time. I don’t want to say we have to be done by this date. Let’s get in the playoffs first. Once we do that, can see who our projected starter is. I still think we’re a little bit away from that.”
Should Vegas play another Eastern Conference team this season, it will be in the Stanley Cup Final. The Knights won a franchise-high 22 games against the East, going 22-8-2. … This was the Knights’ ninth sweep this season, a franchise best. … Vegas had two power-play goals for the second time in three games.
Blue Jackets: At Washington on Tuesday to conclude a five-game road swing.
Golden Knights: At Vancouver on Tuesday to open a three-game Canadian road trip.
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