There were plenty of big smiles on the Vegas bench as the Golden Knights pulled out a 4-3 victory in their season opener against the host Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. And no one had a bigger grin than captain Mark Stone.
Limited to just nine goals and 37 games during an injury-plagued 2021-22 campaign, Stone scored the game-winning goal vs. the Kings with 25.5 seconds remaining.
The Golden Knights will try and make it two wins in a row on Thursday when they face the Chicago Blackhawks in Las Vegas in their home opener.
Stone, who underwent offseason back surgery to repair a painful nerve injury, fired a wrist shot from the right circle past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick to help Vegas notch two points.
“I was happy for him,” Bruce Cassidy said after winning his Golden Knights coaching debut. “You can see how excited the bench was. Guys were jumping all over the place in Game 1. I think they’re excited for Mark to see him back healthy and contributing.”
Stone, who had a streak of seven seasons with at least 20 goals snapped last season, downplayed the goal postgame.
“It just feels good to be back out there with the guys,” the 30-year-old winger said. “Thirty-seven games or whatever it was (last season) is hard. Glad I feel the way I feel right now and excited for Thursday.
“I just want to be healthy and be out with the guys. That’s all that’s on my mind right now. The rest will take care of itself.”
Jack Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson also scored goals for Vegas, which finished with 51 shots on goal in the victory.
“For all of us it’s good to get off on the right foot,” said Cassidy, who was hired on June 14 to replace Peter DeBoer after the Golden Knights missed making the playoffs for the first time in team history. “How you win, I think, coaches analyze a lot. I thought we were full value (on Tuesday).
“We certainly had breakdowns we need to correct, but we also generated a lot of offense against a good defensive team. That’s a good sign that guys were willing to attack the net and hold onto the puck.”
Chicago will be playing the second half of a back-to-back and comes in off a 5-2 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday in Denver. Jonathan Toews and Max Domi scored for the Blackhawks, who allowed four power-play goals.
“It just comes down to having good sticks and getting in front of shots, and I think a couple times, probably just better clears,” Toews said of Chicago’s penalty-killing woes. “It’s simple little things that are easy to clean up, so I’m not too worried about it.”
Domi added, “It’s the first game, right? I think there’s some stuff we can work on, for sure, but it’s a (heck) of a hockey team over there. (They are the) Stanley Cup champions, right? So you got to expect to be able to defend.”
The loss spoiled the head-coaching debut of Chicago’s Luke Richardson.
“I thought the first and the third (periods) were really good,” Richardson said. “I thought the second, I thought we felt the heat, and I thought our focus got lost a little bit. Overall, I think our guys fought to the end, and that’s all that we can ask for. But we definitely have to demand more of ourselves.”
–Field Level Media