The time finally came — after an entourage of folks met him at the airport, after a videographer followed his every step the next 24 hours, from arriving at T-Mobile Arena to his pregame stretching routine, yeah, it got sort of weird — and Mark Stone was ready to appear wearing a new sweater.
He joined teammates for warmups, but not before taking a quick glance in the mirror leading to the ice, adjusting his helmet as he entered a new chapter of his NHL career.
Wanted to look his best, I suppose.
But while his is also a terrific game to watch, it won’t alone shift the tide of what has been an inconsistent bunch of Golden Knights.
One great player does not make for an instant turnabout, and yet it sure seemed to spark something Tuesday night.
Stone made his Las Vegas debut a day after being traded from Ottawa and experienced the elation that is this fan base following a win, the Knights 0-2-1 in their last three games before a 4-1 victory against Dallas in front of 18,261.
It was only close (two of the Knights goals came via empty netters in the final 2:02) because Dallas goalie Ben Bishop, who is 6 feet 7 inches, played like he was 4 feet taller.
He had 44 saves and faced 46 shots. It only seemed like twice that.
But the Knights deserved this one like nobody’s business, given it’s difficult to remember any time they weren’t in the Dallas end over the final 20 minutes.
Third-period shots: Vegas 21, Dallas 1.
It’s a wonder Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t take a nap.
Stone, who has reportedly agreed in principle to an eight-year contract extension that will become official on Friday, was paired with Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny, the team’s best and most aggressive line all evening.
Pacioretty would score twice — one goal on a power player and another unassisted — and yet the guy who was more adversary than friendly competitor when Pacioretty was in Montreal certainly flashed his skill.
Stone’s reputation for forechecking and passing and creating chances via takeaways and redirects were all on display for 17:04 of ice time. He finished with six shots, two blocks, two hits and three takeaways.
Did everything but record a point.
“It was awesome,” Stone said. “We took over the game a majority of the second half. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be in a celebration (with Pacioretty), but it has been awesome. Can’t beat this crowd. It’s the best place to play in the league.
“I can’t change too much. I just want to be myself and play my game. I’m not going to come in here and try to be the guy. I want to fit in and help these guys win. That’s why I’m here.”
As much as he will offer across 200 feet, the idea Stone’s presence alone will completely return the Knights to a consistently winning path isn’t realistic.
He knows that. The room knows it.
It’s on the group
The Knights were 1-5-1 in their last seven coming into Tuesday and, with a quick glance in the rearview mirror, Arizona suddenly has crept within six points in the Pacific Division.
Closing things out with a second straight playoff berth will be about much more than a new and talented face.
Stone will make everyone better, and that’s exactly what everyone needs to be.
He isn’t going to make them work harder. That’s on the group.
“I think we know that in the room,” Knights defenseman Shea Theodore said. “In this league, it’s not like you get one really good guy and all of a sudden it’s, ‘Oh, my God, now we’re going to win the rest of our games and things are going to be easy.’
“We got a big addition (in Stone), but the entire room has to play better as a group. Last year was special, but nothing is going to bring that back. We’ve evolved as a group and we still have a lot of good players, but we haven’t been playing up to par lately. We have to be better and create some new history.”
I’m not sure they created much of anything beyond a really impressive win Tuesday.
It’s a start, and the guy who checked himself in the mirror before warmups is as advertised.
I’m sure you can find a video of it.
If not, there is a really exciting one of him … walking into the arena …
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow
@edgraney on Twitter.