Mark Stone doesn’t have any scars from his numerous battles against Max Pacioretty, at least none that he can recall.
But the Golden Knights’ latest acquisition has six seasons’ worth of stories from facing his new teammate.
“You always hate the best players on the other team,” Stone said.
Once bitter adversaries and central figures in the Montreal-Ottawa rivalry, Stone and Pacioretty have unexpectedly joined forces in the Knights’ quest to capture the Stanley Cup.
They’ll try to build on their successful debut when the Knights wrap up their four-game homestand Thursday against the Florida Panthers at T-Mobile Arena.
“It’s happened to me a million times where guys have gone to Montreal where we weren’t exactly best friends playing against each other, but it’s just the way the game is,” Pacioretty said. “It says a lot that (when) you play against a guy and you don’t like him, those are the guys you tend to love having on your team. And I think that’s definitely the case with Mark.”
Stone was a 21-year-old in 2013 and did not play when Ottawa faced Montreal in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the first postseason series since 1928 between the cities that are a two-hour drive apart.
The five-game series won by the Senators was a bloodbath, with defenseman Eric Gryba getting a two-game suspension for his Game 1 hit on Montreal’s Lars Eller.
Game 3 featured a third-period line brawl and 236 combined penalty minutes — tied for the seventh-most in NHL postseason history — along with a late timeout by Ottawa that incensed Canadiens coach Michel Therrien.
“I think ever since then, the Montreal-Ottawa rivalry was pretty strong,” Pacioretty said.
The teams met again in the first round of the playoffs in 2015, which was Stone’s first full NHL season, and he figured prominently in that series.
In the second period of Game 1, Stone suffered a broken right wrist from a slash by Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban, who was ejected. The physical play continued throughout the series, eventually won by the Canadiens in six games.
In the ensuing seasons, Stone and Pacioretty lined up opposite each other on faceoffs and battled along the wall almost every time the Senators and Canadiens played.
“When you play each other in the playoffs a couple times, you start to get a hate for each other,” Stone said. “He’s a great player, had some good rivalries, obviously. Ottawa and Montreal, don’t really have much good things to say about each other. But the way this game works, you just never know what’s going to happen. I’m excited to be here, and I’m excited to play with him.”
Stone, acquired in a trade with Ottawa on Monday, was assigned the locker next to Pacioretty’s at City National Arena. Their line with center Paul Stastny was one of the most effective for the Knights in a 4-1 victory over Dallas on Tuesday.
Stone finished with six shots on goal, two hits, three takeaways and two blocked shots in his first game since Feb. 18.
Pacioretty had two goals and recorded a team-high eight shots on goal in his 18:13 of ice time. He joked afterward that he almost put his hands up to protect himself when he saw Stone coming to celebrate.
“You always talk about puck management and not giving pucks away, and he’s a big, strong guy that’s heavy on pucks, and that’s real key,” coach Gerard Gallant said of Stone. “I’m sure they battled hard against each other, but I had lots of battles in my days. You see a guy in the summertime or you see a guy after the game, ‘How you doing?’ It’s no big deal.
“I’m sure both those guys respect each other a lot.”
Who: Panthers at Golden Knights
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: T-Mobile Arena
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, Dish 414/5414)
Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM); ESPN Deportes (1460 AM)
Line: Knights -205; total 6½
1. The “Misfits” are back? After getting booed in their previous game at T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights played arguably their most complete game of the season in Tuesday’s 4-1 victory over Dallas to snap a three-game losing skid. They’ll try to win consecutive home games for the first time since Jan. 8.
2. Mistake free. The last time these teams met on Feb. 2, the Knights allowed the fastest goal to start a game in franchise history (12 seconds), Evgenii Dadonov missed a penalty shot, and Mike Hoffman scored the go-ahead goal on a breakaway. The Panthers are skilled enough to feast on miscues.
3. Net dilemma. Florida goaltender James Reimer, who made 34 saves against the Knights in a 3-1 win, was injured against Arizona on Tuesday. The Panthers recalled 22-year-old Samuel Montembeault on an emergency basis, and he could make his NHL debut should veteran Roberto Luongo need rest.
David Schoen Review-Journal