Golden Knights score three in third-period rally to defeat Panthers 4-2

Mark Stone was injured in the first period and did not return.

The Vegas Golden Knights delivered a thrilling come-from-behind 4-2 victory against the Florida Panthers Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena.

They did so despite being without Mark Stone for the majority of the contest, as the captain suffered an upper-body injury in the first period and did not return. He played just 3:57.

The Golden Knights fought through a close matchup and scored three goals in the third period, the game-winner coming off the stick of William Carrier with just 2:36 remaining in regulation.

But the turning point in the game came late in the second period on a successful Vegas challenge for offside, which overturned what would have given Florida a 3-1 lead.

Instead, Vegas remained down one, a deficit the Golden Knights were able to maintain with a crucial kill on Florida’s extended 5-on-3 power play early in the third period.

The Golden Knights went on to score three unanswered goals to keep pace in the Pacific Division race.

It was the Panthers who kicked off the scoring just 2:02 into the opening frame courtesy of former Golden Knights forward Nick Cousins, who had an easy tap-in on a loose puck sitting in the crease.

The net was fully off its moorings prior to the puck crossing the goal line, but after an extensive review, the officials ruled that Ben Hutton was responsible for pushing Eric Staal, which dislodged the net. There was minimal contact, but the call put Vegas behind early.

It was the first of several reviews that played a key role in determining the outcome of the game.

The Golden Knights’ fourth line did the same.

Vegas’ fourth-line unit had a stellar game from start to finish, accounting for two goals, four points, a fight, three high-danger chances (75 percent share) and a 59.02 percent expected goal share in 10:04.

Keegan Kolesar led the way, and he and Nicolas Roy teamed up early in the second period to get Vegas on the board.

Kolesar capitalized on an unforced turnover, showed patience with the puck to force Sergei Bobrovsky and defenseman Gustav Forsling out of position and then sent a backhand pass to Roy, who finished the play with a short-side snipe for his eighth of the year.

Florida took its second lead of the game with a power-play strike at 12:47 of the second period. Adin Hill made a great stop on Sam Bennett but lost his stick, leaving him vulnerable on Sam Reinhart’s follow-up, a one-timer that beat Hill five-hole.

The Panthers scored to make it 3-1 late in the second period, but Vegas negated the goal with a successful challenge for offside. This proved to be a turning point in the game.

The same was true of Vegas’ valiant work on the penalty kill when Florida had a two-man advantage for 1:44 just over three minutes into the third period. Hill came up with several huge saves on the critical kill to keep it a one-goal game.

After the Golden Knights went more than 15 minutes without a shot, including the final 8:03 of the second period and the first 7:50 of the third, Jack Eichel came up with the clutch equalizer 8:37 into the final frame.

Eichel got behind the Florida defensemen and collected a stretch pass from Kaedan Korczak. Though he almost lost control of the puck on the breakaway, Eichel deftly flipped the puck just under the blocker of the sliding Bobrovsky to even things up at 2-2.

The Golden Knights continued to push, and Florida struggled with Vegas’ forecheck throughout the rest of the third period. Eventually, the fourth line struck again, this time with the game-winner.

Kolesar did all the work, catching the puck at the blue line, determinedly skating along the wall and sending a centering feed to the breaking Carrier to give Vegas its first lead of the night.

The goal was challenged for goalie interference but stood tall, as it was ruled that Brandon Montour pushed Carrier into Bobrovsky.

The failed challenge resulted in Vegas’ lone power play of the game; the Golden Knights made good use of it, as William Karlsson scored an empty-net tally to seal the win with 1:07 left.

It was a hard-fought game by the Golden Knights and a key response to the team’s recent lackluster performance against Los Angeles. It wasn’t easy, nor was it a perfect performance, but the team-wide effort led to an important win on home ice.

The fourth line stepped up in the absence of the captain, and Eichel’s heroics jumpstarted the comeback in the third period. Hill finished the game with 38 saves on 39 shots for a .974 save percentage in his ninth win of the season.

Vegas is now in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division with 58 points and still has two games in hand on the Kings.

The Golden Knights will return to action Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers as the extended homestand continues.

Whether or not Stone will be available to square off against Connor McDavid remains unclear; Bruce Cassidy did not have an update on Stone following the game.