Updated October 15, 2021 - 4:41 am
LOS ANGELES — Mark Stone unleashed what looked like a routine shot during the second period Thursday that was deflected into the Staples Center crowd.
But as the Golden Knights’ captain peeled off and skated toward the bench, it was apparent something was wrong.
Stone left with 12:20 remaining in the second period and had to be helped to the locker room. He did not return to the Knights’ 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
There was no update available on Stone’s status immediately after the game.
“It was an innocent play. He just locked up,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “He’s been dealing with something on and off, but it hasn’t bothered him to the point that he hasn’t been able to play.”
The Knights (1-1) were already without four forwards because of injury or COVID-19 protocol. They have five days to heal before their next game Wednesday against St. Louis.
Shea Theodore’s drive from the point nine minutes in put the Knights ahead 1-0, but they were outworked the rest of the way by the aggressive Kings. Chandler Stephenson scored in the third period.
Anze Kopitar had a hat trick and two assists, and defenseman Drew Doughty added a goal and three assists to lead the Kings in their season opener.
“They were faster than us,” winger Reilly Smith said. “We were too slow to close, giving them too much time. When you do that, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you’re going to make them look good in this league.”
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Lehner yanked
Goalie Robin Lehner might have been the Knights’ best player through two periods, according to DeBoer. But that didn’t prevent him from being pulled after two periods in favor of Laurent Brossoit.
It was the first time Lehner has been pulled since he was traded to the Knights in 2020.
“I just saw it as an opportunity to get (Brossoit) some work, maybe spark our team on a night where we didn’t have a lot going on,” DeBoer said. “I think there were a lot of reasons, but none of them were based on Robin’s performance.”
Lehner stopped 27 of 31 shots before he was replaced, but couldn’t do much with the Knights defense hanging him out to dry.
Los Angeles finished with a 77-41 advantage in shot attempts at five-on-five and had 60 percent of the high-danger chances.
“This is the worst game I’ve seen since I got here,” Lehner said. “Opening night for them doesn’t really matter. I think we’ve had a reputation of being a very hard-working team every night, and I think we lost most of our battles. Everyone, including me, we’ve just got to be better.”
2. Delayed tribute
Defenseman Alec Martinez played four times at Staples Center last season after he was traded to the Knights in 2020, but there were no fans in the building.
He returned Thursday and was honored with a scoreboard video during a break in the first period. Martinez won two Stanley Cups with the Kings and scored the clinching goal during the 2014 Final against the New York Rangers.
After the morning skate, Martinez was asked about his debut for Los Angeles on Oct. 3, 2009.
“I remember being dash-2 and losing like 6-2 to Phoenix right in this building. I played terrible,” said Martinez, referring to his plus-minus rating. “I felt bad actually for (defense partner) Matt Greene because he ate a couple minuses because of me. I’ve since apologized.”
3. Rookie line
DeBoer opted to put his three youngsters together on the fourth line, with Peyton Krebs joining Jake Leschyshyn and Jonas Rondbjerg for their NHL debuts.
After rookie Pavel Dorofeyev played 4:07 on five shifts in his NHL debut during the opener, DeBoer showed more faith in Leschyshyn and Rondbjerg.
The unit created a good chance late in the first period when Krebs streaked down the right wing and centered a pass for Leschyshyn, whose redirection forced Kings goalie Calvin Petersen into a tough save.
But Leschyshyn also took a tripping penalty less than a minute later, leading to Kopitar’s power-play goal in the final minute of the first.
“I thought they did a good job,” DeBoer said. “First NHL games in a tough environment against a real good team. They weren’t our worst players. They held their own and did some good stuff.”