Golden Knights 7, Panthers 2: Mark Stone dominant in Vegas victory

That’s one way to come back home.

When a season has one too many questions, the big-dollar players need to step up.

Mark Stone did that on Thursday night.

Stone recorded the third five-point game of his NHL career (two goals, three assists), and the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Florida Panthers 7-2 to end their eight-game road trip on a high note.

The last time Stone had such a night where he destroyed the opposition was Nov. 16, 2018, as a member of the Ottawa Senators, against the New Jersey Devils. He had a four-assist game on Feb. 18, 2017 at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This was Stone’s first such game in a Vegas sweater during the regular season; you’ll recall Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round last season where he had a hat trick and two assists.

Stone was on the attack in the early going. The Golden Knights scored 2:15 into the game with Stone scoring on the rebound to make it 1-0. Mike Hoffman tied it 1-1 on the power play to offset his former Ottawa teammate’s tally, but the early Vegas start was a good sign after Tuesday’s shortcoming at Tampa Bay.

Stone replicated the early-strike efforts at 1:41 of the second period; he took a pass from Chandler Stephenson and dangled through the Florida defense to give Vegas a 2-1 lead off the shorthanded goal. Vinny Trocheck tied it 2-2 at 11:52, but Max Pacioretty’s first of two goals 26 seconds later gave the Golden Knights a 3-2 lead.

Stone recorded his first assist on Pacioretty’s 22nd goal of the year.

It’s been a little while since the Golden Knights dominated a game like this. It’s been even longer to see them dominate the third period the way they did. Of course, it started with a quick strike to begin the third period. It eerily resembled Game 3 of that aforementioned playoff game against the Sharks.

Nate Schmidt scored his second goal in four games 17 seconds into the final stanza to increase the lead to 4-2. Shea Theodore recorded his second point of the night, a shorthanded goal at 4:11 to make it 5-2. Theodore’s goal was his 23rd point since Dec. 13, trailing only Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi for most points by a defenseman since that time.

Jonathan Marchessault added a power-play goal and Pacioretty scored his second of the game to ice the season-high mark in goals for Vegas, which has won three of four since the All-Star/bye week combo and have improved to 4-2-1 since Peter DeBoer replaced Gerard Gallant on Jan. 15.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves for his 460th win in the NHL, moving him past Henrik Lundqvist for fifth place on the League’s all-time wins list. He is 24 wins behind Ed Belfour for fourth place.

Sergei Bobrovsky, two days removed from allowing one goal against his former team, was chased after surrendering six goals on 29 shots.

All things considered, this is the best possible outcome the Golden Knights could’ve asked for. Absolutely, they should’ve added another two or four points to the ledger and made this trip look even more outstanding.

But take into account where the Golden Knights are compared to their Pacific Division counterparts; the first-place Vancouver Canucks lost 4-2 at Minnesota, the Calgary Flames lost to Nashville, the Arizona Coyotes surrendered five unanswered goals to the Carolina Hurricanes, and the San Jose Sharks are on their way to thumping the Edmonton Oilers at time of publication.

Just imagine if they won at Tampa the other night. Nevertheless, it’s a good night for the Golden Knights, who will play their first home game since Jan. 11 on Saturday, against the aforementioned Hurricanes.

And when the Golden Knights do return home, you should be doing so as well. Go to StubHub and get your tickets for this game. It’s going to be an exciting time.

Until then, be as happy as #ExpressiveMarkStone.