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Mark Stone well worth the price it cost Golden Knights — VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Updated April 15, 2019 - 1:03 am

You need to remember the price was steep.

It included 19-year-old defenseman Erik Brannstrom, who was selected 15th overall in the 2017 NHL draft and was already popular enough in Las Vegas, despite having never played in a regular-season game, to where he could have defeated even someone named Goodman for mayor.

It included forward Oscar Lindberg, who suddenly proved he could score a little, and a second-round pick in 2020.

And a few months later, it could be as precipitous a drop as the most frightening of cliffs.

It could be Nanga Parbat.

The Golden Knights gladly would take the plunge for forward Mark Stone every time.

The final score Sunday night was 6-3 in favor of the Knights against the San Jose Sharks before an announced gathering of 18,461 at T-Mobile Arena, but perhaps even more important than taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series is how the win occurred.

“I just love being here,” Stone said. “I love playing in Las Vegas. I love my teammates, the fans, the city. This is why I came here. I want to play playoff hockey. We’ve had some success, sure, but we can’t dwell on it. We have to be good professionals and continue to get better.”

Knights general manager George McPhee said in dealing with Ottawa at the trade deadline that Stone was the here, the now and the future.

I don’t know about the last one, but the here and the now parts are terrific.

Stone had a hat trick Sunday and has six goals in the first three games, leading a second line that is giving the Sharks all sorts of matchup headaches.

San Jose has no answers for Stone, Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty.

All they did Sunday was combine for the six goals and 12 points.

“They’ve eaten us up this series,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “What do they do well? It is three very good players that are playing at a really high level. We’ve got to find an answer to slow those guys down.”

Things are beginning to look a little familiar, no?

Some leading characters have changed — see that second line of the Knights — but the series suddenly appears more and more like 2018.

Other than a five-minute stretch to conclude the first period of Game 2 and some third-period slippage Sunday, the Knights seem to have returned to a form that allowed them to eliminate San Jose in six games of a Western Conference semifinal last season.

Which is another way of saying they’re again taking things to Martin Jones.

Struggling goalie

Excuse the San Jose goalie if he awakes in a heavy sweat each night with visions of Knights crested sweaters rushing at him, a player who if Vegas isn’t totally in his head by now, has to be fending off such thoughts daily.

Jones had started 13 games against the Knights with a 3.28 goals-against average before this series began, having been pulled four times. He has now dropped two straight, also getting an early exit in Game 2.

“We just want to keep it going,” said Pacioretty, who had a goal and an assist. “Never too high, never too low. (San Jose) is a good team. We know they’re going to push hard the next game, and we have to get ready for it.”

This sort of win doesn’t happen before the Stone trade. Maybe the Knights find success, but not this way. He just makes everyone better. Few fit as seamlessly as he did upon arriving to a team that reached the Stanley Cup Final last year.

Stone did, becoming the team’s highest-paid player with an eight-year extension that carries an average annual value of $9.5 million. None of that mattered. He was immediately welcomed to the room.

Guys know which guys can play.

Guys know the great ones.

“It was fun to watch (the second line) do what they do best,” Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “Congrats to Mark, man. That’s an incredible game from him. That’s why they pay him the big bucks.”

He has been worth every penny.

You need to remember the price was steep, but no matter the height of the cliff, the Knights gladly would take that plunge again and again for Mark Stone.

I’m just not sure San Jose is all that excited that they did.

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com 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.

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