Stone returns, Golden Knights down Stars in Game 1

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY
Golden Knights captain Mark Stone made his controversial return with a bang, scoring the opening goal in the team’s 4-3 victory over the top-seeded Stars.

DALLAS — That sound you just heard was Mark Stone’s theme music.

The Golden Knights’ captain made his return after nearly two months, scoring the team’s first goal just moments into the series opener as the Knights took a 4-3 victory in Game 1 on Monday night. 

Game 2 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN).

Stone, whose timely return at the start of the playoffs is again the subject of controversy, announced his presence with the opening goal as if he was one of pro wrestling’s great heels.

“It was a big goal for us to get off to a good start on the road, that’s key,” Stone said. “The power play clutched up for us, got two big goals for us. (We wanted to) get off to that good start, get the chemistry there.

“Obviously, I haven’t played a lot of hockey in the last two months. I’ve been on the ice, but the games are different. I’m not just jumping into a preseason game in September. I’m playing a playoff game in April, so you got to be ready.”

It led to a barnburner of a first period, as goals from Jonathan Marchessault and Tomas Hertl gave the Knights 3-2 lead at the first intermission. The Knights scored three of the first four goals before Jason Robertson joined Jamie Benn on the scoresheet for Dallas to bring them within one at the break. 

After the first period wrapped up, Stone was approached by ESPN’s sideline reporter for an interview at intermission. Stone, who missed 26 games with a ruptured spleen, couldn’t hear the questions over the raucous boos from the Dallas crowd. 

“I don’t know,” said Stone, whose return caused internet trolls to accuse the Knights of stashing him for salary cap savings. “I guess they don’t like me.”

Brayden McNabb provided the Knights the insurance they needed with a goal just over a minute into the third period, coming off an assist by Jack Eichel. This gave the defending champions a 4-2 advantage at the second intermission and silenced the Stars’ faithful who were so passionately booing Stone less than an hour before.

Mason Marchment brought the Stars within a goal midway through the third period, but they were unable to tie the game in the waning moments and lost by a goal. 

The win means the Golden Knights will start this year’s playoffs better than last year’s championship run. The lost their playoff opener against the Jets before going on a tear for the rest of the playoffs as they ended up lifting their first Stanley Cup.

The loss sets the first-place finisher in the Western Conference on the wrong foot. They’re already facing a Knights team that is healthy after hobbling through the regular season with a patched-up lineup. Now, they’ll have to come from behind to do it. 

“There was no panic in our team,” Cassidy said. “Everyone played. We didn’t sit there (like we did during the regular season) and say, ‘Okay, you’re not going to play’. We’re not line juggling within lines, so to speak. I didn’t pull one left winger off this line (tonight).

”When you’re down people in the roster, sometimes you protect certain people. We didn’t have to do that tonight. That was a nice thing.”

Cassidy said the Knights’ depth helped them ease the recovering players back into the the lineup.

“I think certain lines obviously played a little better than others, but in general, everyone did their job,” he said “I thought our physicality up and down the lineup was excellent.”