Updated January 14, 2021 - 11:20 pm
Yes, it’s easy to point to the third period Thursday and say that’s why the Golden Knights named Mark Stone the first captain in franchise history.
But that’s exactly why they named Mark Stone the first captain in franchise history.
Stone scored the go-ahead goal 49 seconds into the third period to provide a much-needed spark and set up another in the Knights’ 5-2 victory over Anaheim in the season opener with no fans at T-Mobile Arena.
“He led the way. That’s why he’s wearing a C,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “He has the ability to raise his level at important times. That’s what you want your captain to do.”
Jonathan Marchessault and Tomas Nosek scored early in the first period for the Knights, who were playing at home for the first time since March 3.
Max Pacioretty put the Knights ahead 4-2 with 9:01 remaining, and Alex Tuch added an empty-net goal.
The teams complete their two-game series at 7 p.m. Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
“We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of games in this league, whether it’s with or without fans,” Stone said. ”We can battle that adversity very well. A hockey game’s 60 minutes. We have to continue to play no matter the ups and downs. We have to finish the game strong. I thought in the third period we just played our game for the whole 20 minutes. Even when we got up 4-2, we continued to play and really didn’t give them anything.”
The Knights overcame rustiness and early lapses in defensive coverage to improve to 3-1 all time in season openers.
Stone, named captain Wednesday, provided the necessary lift when he fired a one-timer off a feed from Chandler Stephenson past Ducks goalie John Gibson to break a 2-2 tie.
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo picked up an assist on the goal in his debut after he signed a seven-year, $61.6 million contract during free agency.
Stone then produced an outstanding individual effort that led to the fourth goal. He chipped the puck to himself off the boards in his own zone and managed to flip the puck while falling to Pacioretty, who wired a shot through Gibson’s legs.
Stone, named the game’s first star, waved to the imaginary crowd while accepting the honor.
“Obviously a great second effort from our leader,” Pacioretty said. “After a big goal to get us ahead, that second effort to get it over to me … I saw the ref’s arm go up. I was hoping it was a penalty by them.”
Robin Lehner became the first goaltender other than Marc-Andre Fleury to start an opener for the Knights and overcame a shaky start to finish with 20 saves.
He came up with a glove save on Nicolas Deslauriers in the third period and denied Danton Heinen’s one-timer with Gibson pulled for an extra attacker late in the third period.
The Knights raced out of the gate and took advantage of a Ducks team that was playing its first game in 309 days with two goals in the opening 2:13.
Marchessault took a pass in transition from defenseman Alec Martinez and split the defense before wristing a shot past Gibson 1:07 after the opening faceoff.
Nosek made the score 2-0 about a minute later after some strong forechecking by the fourth line. Ryan Reaves intercepted the puck behind the Ducks net and tucked a pass between his legs to Nosek in the slot.
Anaheim answered with back-to-back goals by Max Comtois, who was a late addition to the roster after starting the day on the taxi squad.
Comtois was left alone in front and buried a pass from Sam Steel at 4:22 and tied the score at 7:58 when Ryan Getzlaf forced a turnover behind the Knights’ net and found him uncovered at the side of the net.