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Mark Stone rapidly becomes Golden Knights’ emotional leader

Updated April 13, 2019 - 8:04 pm

Mark Stone assimilated quickly with the Golden Knights after he was acquired at the trade deadline in February, learning his new teammates and fitting in with the culture that’s been established.

But his real initiation into the group came during the first two games of the Western Conference quarterfinals.

“He’s an all-time Golden Knight now,” left wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “He’s really part of us, and he’s definitely joined the club in the right way.”

Stone’s passion has been on display early in the best-of-seven series against the San Jose Sharks, which is tied 1-1 and continues with Game 3 on Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.

From his fiery goal celebrations to his willingness to stand up for teammates, Stone is rapidly becoming the Knights’ emotional leader.

“It’s a big part of it. This time of the year, that’s what you need,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “He’s a competitive guy. He finishes some hard checks. He played the game real hard. We heard a lot of good things before you got him and you knew him as a player, but playoffs are a different level, and he really showed up big-time (Friday) night.”

In addition to the scoring and 200-foot game that should put Stone in contention for the Selke Award, the former alternate captain in Ottawa brought an intensity to the Knights that helped fill a void created by James Neal’s offseason departure.

Stone was indoctrinated into the rivalry against San Jose during the final two weeks of March, as the teams met twice in a 12-day span. And he’s carried over that hostility into the postseason.

“He’s goofy off the ice, and then he just gets so fired up for the game in the locker room,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “I love the way he’s playing, and he’s a guy who’s been there in the conference finals before. You add that type of experience to your group and you see how excited he gets.”

Stone, who did not participate in the Knights’ optional skate Saturday and was not available to the media, scored both goals for the Knights in their 5-2 loss to open the series and was in the eye of the storm throughout Game 2.

He tangled with San Jose forward Timo Meier during the first period of Game 2 and punctuated his second-period goal with a forceful fist pump.

When San Jose’s Evander Kane bumped Stone after the final horn Friday, three Knights rushed to his aid. Afterward, a charged-up Stone led the Knights’ handshake line, which included plenty of adults-only language.

“I think he just wants to win,” center Paul Stastny said. “That’s something you’ve always seen out of him when he plays, whether it was regular season or playoffs, and whether it was here or in Ottawa.

“It’s not about him for him. It’s all about the team and whatever he can do to help the team out, whether it’s on the scoreboard, whether it’s emotionally on the bench or whether it’s being physical on the ice.”

Stone, who signed an eight-year, $76 million extension last month, leads the Knights in goals during the postseason with three.

Left wing Max Pacioretty has a team-high four points (one goal, three assists), and Stastny notched three assists in the first two games as the Knights’ high-priced line of newcomers has carried the offense.

“He’s been our best player in the playoffs so far,” Marchessault said of Stone. “He’s been great, and he gets fired up. It definitely shows, and he’s leading well out there. He’s a great example for everyone out there to be emotional and be ready for the game.”

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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