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What Jack Eichel Had To Say After His Hat Trick Return To Buffalo



Jack Eichel and Logan Thompson, Vegas Golden Knights (Photo- Vegas Golden Knights via Twitter)

The stories write themselves.

Former Buffalo Sabre of six seasons, Jack Eichel returned to play his former team Thursday night and scored four points in a period, including a hat-trick, to help the Vegas Golden Knights win 7-4.

It was Eichel’s first overall hat trick as a Golden Knight and his third at KeyBank Center. His four points in the third period have set a Golden Knights record for the most points in a single period.

With six goals, five assists, and 11 points in his last six games, Eichel is on pace for a 103-point season.

A disagreement over the future of Eichel’s career, both medically and competitively, propelled him to ask for a trade from the Sabres. On Nov. 4, 2021, he was traded to the Golden Knights in a blockbuster deal.

In his first return to KeyBank Center, Eichel was booed as the playoff-chasing Golden Knights lost 3-1. Both Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, whom Eichel was traded for, scored in the Sabres’ victory.

A then frustrated Eichel had some choice words for the Sabres fanbase postgame.

“That’s about the loudest I’ve heard this place, ever. It only took seven years and me leaving for them to get into the game… There were plenty of people here supporting me, and there were plenty of people here that were booing me. They must have just been booing me because they wish I were still here,” Eichel said.

Now eight months later, Eichel made his second return in a much more glorious fashion. After each and every one of his goals, he made sure to soak in the reactions of the crowd at KeyBank Center, which was at 82.6% capacity Thursday night.

“It felt good. I had a couple of breakaways. They were obviously on me all night and it felt good to get one. It was at a big point in the game for our group,” said Eichel after Thursday night’s win.

Eichel took much more of a humble approach in his postgame answers this time, continuously saying how lucky he was for the opportunity to restart his career with the Golden Knights essentially.

“I just tried to enjoy it, the whole experience. I just feel very privileged to be able to play this game. It was a great team win for us, we had a good road trip. I’ve just been enjoying playing hockey this year and trying to make the most of every night,” said Eichel.

After the first two periods, the story was almost completely different as Sabres goaltender Eric Comrie shut down Eichel on two breakaway chances. Paul Cotter was the only one to score on a breakaway.

“The crowd was enjoying them (the breakaways). I guess I will have to go back to the drawing board and work on my breakaways,” said Eichel.

Eichel only scored on Comrie twice. One was off a juicy rebound, and the other came five-hole off the rush with Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone. This line is now fourth in the NHL in expected goals.

The hat-trick goal might have been Eichel’s most impressive of the night as it came in his own end with the empty net. He shot a puck down the ice 199 feet away from the goal to score near Logan Thompson.

“I haven’t had too much luck this year with empty nets. You just try and take advantage of it if you can. It seemed like he (Eric Comrie) had my number a couple of times on the breakaways. Sometimes it’s easier to score when he is not in the net,” said Eichel.

In such a high-stakes game with Eichel’s return, a winning streak, and a perfect road trip on the line, #ExpressiveMarkStone was naturally present. The Golden Knights captain was very vocal in his support for Eichel postgame.

“That’s one of the coolest games I have ever been a part of, especially in the regular season. I’ve had games going back to Ottawa where I was able to score and get wins, it feels great. I’m sure he feels a ton of emotions right now. Just an incredible game for him” said Stone.

Stone, who has played with guys like Erik Karlsson, Marc-Andre Fleury, Daniel Alfredsson, and Mika Zibanejad, went as far as to say that Eichel might be the best player he has ever played with.

“I’m gonna back this guy no matter what. He’s one of the most impressive teammates I have ever played with, if not the best player I have ever played. It’s all about support in this locker room. Everyone is supporting each other and I couldn’t be happier for the guy, he deserves it,” said Stone.

It’s clear that the team wanted to win for Eichel, something head coach Bruce Cassidy echoed as well.

“No one likes to see a teammate get booed. I’ll say it as simply as I can. It hurts everybody. We’re a close-knit team, so we’re happy for him,” said Cassidy.

“We just wanted to support him… They (the fans) were on him all night, but it shows his character, he wants to win the game, and he will do anything to win the game, and there was a lot of emotion when he gets those big goals,” added Mark Stone.

Winners of Eichel’s no. 9 straight, Golden Knights have Friday off as they travel home from a perfect road trip to take on the St. Louis Blues Saturday night at T-Mobile at 7 p.m.