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3 takeaways from Knights win: Captain sparks Game 1 victory

Updated April 22, 2024 - 11:41 pm

DALLAS — Mark Stone heard the boos.

It’d be difficult not to when more than 18,000 people at American Airlines Center expressed their displeasure to the Golden Knights captain.

It didn’t take long for Stone to quiet the crowd.

He scored a power-play goal 1:23 into his return to the Knights’ lineup, sparking a 4-3 win against the top-seeded Dallas Stars in Game 1 of the two teams’ Western Conference first-round playoff series Monday.

“It was a big goal for us,” Stone said. “I thought we got off to a good start on the road.”

But what about the chorus of boos?

“I guess they don’t like me,” Stone said.

The game was Stone’s first since he suffered a Grade 3 lacerated spleen against the Nashville Predators on Feb. 20. The timing of his return was not lost on Stars fans.

Monday marked the second straight year Stone returned from a significant second-half injury in time for Game 1 of the playoffs. Last season was a back surgery. This one was an injury to an internal organ. Not easy things to recover from before the most important time of the year.

“The games are different,” Stone said. “You’re not just jumping into a preseason game in September. You’ve got to be ready.”

The playoffs are what Stone plays for. He showed it last postseason by scoring 24 points in 22 games to lift the Stanley Cup.

His presence this year helped the Knights’ title defense get off to a great start.

Everything started with Stone’s power-play deflection that beat goaltender Jake Oettinger. The boos grew louder as he made his way to the Knights’ bench to be congratulated by his teammates.

“I loved it,” right wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “Couldn’t be more happier for any other guy than him.”

Marchessault, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner for playoff MVP, struck 7:04 after Stone. Center Tomas Hertl, playing in his first playoff game since 2019 with the San Jose Sharks, added a power-play goal 2:09 before the first intermission to give the Knights a 3-1 lead.

The offensive onslaught was part of a hectic start to the game. The two teams combined to score five goals on 19 shots in the first period.

There was almost another tally as well.

Defenseman Ryan Suter put the puck in the net for the Stars 7:06 into the first period and appeared to tie the game at 1-1. Coach Bruce Cassidy challenged the play and was successful when left wing Mason Marchment was deemed to be offside on the play after review.

Dallas instead had to wait to get on the board until captain Jamie Benn scored with 3:53 left in the first period to cut his team’s deficit to 2-1. Left wing Jason Robertson later answered Hertl’s goal to bring the Stars within one goal again with 1:31 remaining until the first intermission.

Dallas never found an equalizer.

Defenseman Brayden McNabb scored his fourth career playoff goal 1:06 into the second period to stretch the Knights’ lead to 4-2. It was one of only seven shots for the team the final two periods. It didn’t matter.

The Knights played the same kind of strong defense in the second and third periods that they did on their way to a Stanley Cup championship last season.

“I thought we played the right way and stuck with it,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.

Dallas got a third-period goal from Marchment to claw within 4-3 but got no closer. The Knights took a 1-0 lead in the series and tipped home-ice advantage in their favor.

“This is what you play for,” Stone said. “Once the game gets going, you realize why you play. It’s so much fun to be out there.”

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Fourth line sets tone

The Knights’ fourth line was reunited Monday as left wing William Carrier played his first game since March 25 after recovering from an upper-body injury.

The group got off to a strong start.

Center Nicolas Roy, playing between Carrier and right wing Keegan Kolesar, drew a high-sticking penalty on the game’s first shift.

Stone scored on the subsequent power play for his fourth goal in his last two playoff games. He recorded a hat trick in the Knights’ Stanley Cup-clinching 9-3 victory against the Florida Panthers in Game 5 of the Final.

2. ‘Playoff Marchy’ strikes again

Marchessault came up with another huge postseason moment Monday.

His goal extended his playoff point streak to 11 games. He’s scored nine goals and seven assists in that stretch, which dates back to Game 2 of the 2023 Western Conference Final against the Stars.

Marchessault didn’t score a goal until the Knights’ eighth playoff game last season. He didn’t waste time this year. His goal was his 35th in the playoffs for the Knights in 89 games.

3. Thompson settles down

Goaltender Logan Thompson stepped up when needed during his first playoff start.

He made 27 saves and overcame a rough third goal to earn his first postseason win.

Thompson misplayed Marchment’s shot, which came from 60 feet away. That led to chants of “Logan” throughout the arena to try to get into the 27-year-old’s head.

Thompson didn’t compound his mistake. He stayed composed and helped the Knights see out the win.

“Definitely happy for him,” Marchessault said. “Everybody had adversity this year and he did great. The past few weeks he’s been unbelievable for us. Happy to have battled for him tonight.”

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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