Mark Stone is proving to be everything the Vegas Golden Knights need in a leader during the Stanley Cup Second Round against the Colorado Avalanche.
At no time was that more evident than a 3-2 win in Game 5 at the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, when the captain blocked his third shot of the game before scoring his first overtime goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, 50 seconds into the extra period to give Golden Knights the lead in the best-of-7 series.
They can eliminate the Avalanche and advance to the Stanley Cup Semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens with a win in Game 6 at T-Mobile Arena in Vegas on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“That was vintage Mark Stone because he blocked a shot at our end of the ice first, then got the breakaway and stuck it in the net with a perfect shot,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “I think if there’s one sequence of plays that kind of defines him, that would be it; willing to do that grunt work and dirty work around our net defensively, and of course the big-time play to win it for us.”
It’s the type of play DeBoer expects from his top players. Stone rarely disappoints, even if it isn’t reflected on the score sheet.
“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch said. “He wears character on his chest. He’s the captain we’ve always wanted. I think he was frustrated with himself at times earlier in the game, but he came out huge for us at the start of overtime.”
Stone, a 29-year-old right wing, has a point (one goal, two assists) in three straight wins by the Golden Knights.
“It’s a great opportunity,” DeBoer said. “But at the same time, we know the task at hand and how difficult it’s going to be, and I think Mark Stone said it (Tuesday) … we all know the last one’s always the toughest, especially against a team like this.”
The Avalanche won 11 straight games dating to the regular season to clinch the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team with the best regular season record in the NHL. They swept the St. Louis Blues in four games in the first round.
DeBoer said the Golden Knights wouldn’t be in this position without better-than-ordinary performances from his players.
“If they’re not, you’re not in a position to upset Colorado with the team they’ve got,” he said. “We knew we were going to have to be at the top of our game in all areas, and I think the guys have done a good job and put us in a spot where we’ve got a chance to win this.”
Stone is second on the Golden Knights with five goals. His eight points are tied for second with forward Jonathan Marchessault. He’s first with 15 takeaways and best among Vegas forwards in average ice time (19:47) in 12 postseason games, including 19:35 in Game 5.
“You need everyone to contribute to win games,” Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “When these guys are putting up the big goals and big points for our team, that’s huge for us. The work they do against the other team in their defensive zone and preventing scoring chances from the other guys too, it’s a big part of our team. They’ve been doing that night in and night out.”
Stone has scored 18 playoff goals for the Golden Knights since he was acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 25, 2019. That’s fifth in the NHL in that span behind Brayden Point (23), Nathan MacKinnon (23), Brad Marchand (22) and David Pastrnak (19).
“I’m a huge believer in leadership in your room and experience and we’re very fortunate to have Mark Stone and everything he brings,” DeBoer said. “But two guys that I think also bring a ton to the table are (defensemen) Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez, both Stanley Cup winners, both have been there and seen almost every situation in the playoffs. They have a real good feel for what to say at the right time at those moments.
“We’re real fortunate to have those guys in the room.”