Before tonight’s game, Vegas Golden Knights’ head coach Gerard Gallant said that his team needed to stop letting the opposing goaltender be the first star of the game. While Stars netminder Ben Bishop played a tremendous game for Dallas, Max Pacioretty took home the first-star honors tonight as he led the Knights to a 4-1 victory.
Pacioretty scored twice, hitting the 20-goal mark with the game-winning strike 14:52 into the third period. It was one of three third-period goals (along with two empty-netters) for the Knights, who outshot the Stars 21-1 in the final 20 minutes of action.
Pacioretty’s impressive night was also thanks to Vegas’ new-look second line, which featured Paul Stastny and the new guy, Mark Stone.
While Pacioretty may have stolen the show, all eyes were on Stone in his Golden Knights debut, and he didn’t disappoint. He was one of Vegas’ best players throughout the game, generating three high-danger chances and recording three takeaways, something he is known for after leading the NHL in takeaways in each of the last five seasons. He also registered six shots, two hits and two blocks along with a plus-one rating in just over 17 minutes of ice time.
But it was Dallas that got on the board first as Roope Hintz opened the scoring 11:13 into the opening frame. He capitalized on a rebound on the power play to give Dallas a 1-0 lead, which held up after a Vegas challenge for goaltender interference.
The power play was a result of a penalty called on Jonathan Marchessault, who was more hot-headed in this game than usual. He took two penalties, both of which could have been costly.
Fortunately, the Golden Knights’ penalty kill stepped up significantly during the second, in large part thanks to the play of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
Vegas knotted things up in the second period when Pacioretty scored on the power play at 11:48.
Whistled it right past Ben Bishop's ear. What a shot. pic.twitter.com/X1bAwHQK1V— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 27, 2019
Alex Tuch set a fantastic screen on the play, taking away Ben Bishop’s eyes and allowing Patches to blast the puck into the twine.
Pacioretty scored again with just over five minutes to go in the third, banking a shot off Tyler Seguin after stealing the puck from Bishop.
Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb potted the empty-net goals, both of which were scored from nearly 200 feet away, to secure the win.
Bishop made 44 saves on 46 shots, including six saves on Pacioretty’s game-high eight shots. Bishop’s most crucial stretch came during a 5-on-3 opportunity for Vegas.
Ben Bishop robs Marchessault. What a save. pic.twitter.com/qs2XeMxsXK— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 27, 2019
It was the most dangerous 5-on-3 Vegas has had this season, but Bishop completely robbed the Knights. Ultimately, however, Bishop’s stellar play wasn’t enough to overcome an excellent all-around team effort by the Knights, who dominated for three periods, holding a clear 14-4 edge in high-danger chance differential at 5-on-5. The Knights also had a 35-17 shot ratio at 5-on-5, holding Dallas to just one shot in the critical third period; the Knights outshot Dallas 48-24 on the night.
Speaking of domination, Ryan Reaves was the definition of dominant tonight, at least from a physical standpoint. His clean hit on Andrew Cogliano took the Stars’ forward out of the game, and it ended up being a clear turning point in the contest.
Here's another look at Ryan Reaves' hit on Andrew Cogliano. pic.twitter.com/bXNOAE6RRV— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 27, 2019
That wasn’t the only imposing hit Reaves delivered, however, as he landed eight hits while rocking several other Stars skaters in the process.
In addition to being an all-around team effort, it was also a 60-minute effort by the Knights, as it wasn’t just the third period that Vegas controlled. The Golden Knights had a 14-10 shot ratio at 5-on-5 in the first and a 10-6 advantage in the second. It doesn’t get much more dominant than this:
Though he didn’t find the scoresheet, Stone’s two-way abilities were on full display throughout the game, and it was clear that he gelled with his new linemates, who both picked up two points in the win.
In fact, the second line had a 69.23 Corsi For percentage and a 71.43 percent shot share while dominating high-danger opportunities, 5-0. That came with just a 53.33 percent offensive zone faceoff percentage.
In other words, that line was very, very good.
Stone had nearly three minutes of ice time on the power play, and he excelled at both ends of the ice in his first game as a Knight, though that’s something that will continue to be a staple of Stone’s game.
George McPhee acknowledged the winger’s versatility earlier in the day.
“[Stone’s] an all-around player...He plays in overtime, plays in your power play, kills penalties, blocks shots, he’s big, he can protect a lead, he can help you tie a game up if necessary, he scores goals, he’s a playmaker... You can play him anywhere you need him, in any situation.”
But Stone had a simple game plan ahead of his Vegas debut.
“I can’t change too much, I just want to be myself and play my game,” he said. “I’m not going to come in here and try to be ‘the guy.’ I want to fit in. I want to help these guys win, that’s why I’m here.”
With Stone in the lineup, Vegas is now officially undefeated at 1-0-0.
The Knights’ recent cold streak shortened the leash on Vegas’ lead in the standings, but tonight’s win puts the Knights six points ahead of Arizona. A few more wins like this and the Golden Knights will be just fine.