Ross James/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

DALLAS — It was imperative that the Vegas Golden Knights, the defending Stanley Cup Champions who picked up the fewest points of any playoff team in the Western Conference one season later, get off to the perfect start in beginning the defense of their title against the team that was one point away from being crowned as the league’s Presidents’ Trophy winners — the award given to the best team in the regular season.

A goal less than two minutes into the game sure did the trick for the Golden Knights on Monday, who also pulled off the trick one period later on their way to staling home ice advantage.

Captain Mark Stone marked his return to the ice by scoring a power play goal 83 seconds into the contest, and an early tally from light-scoring defenseman Brayden McNabb in the second helped to lead Las Vegas to a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars Game 1 of the first round series on Monday night. Jonathan Marchessault and trade-deadline acquisition Tomas Hertl also scored for the Golden Knights, whose last away game in the playoffs was a 6-0 drubbing of the Stars in Game 6 of the Western Conference final last May to clinch their second appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

Stone, who had been out of the lineup since Feb. 20 with a lacerated spleen, was only cleared for full contact on Saturday, and immediately saw action on the man advantage after Sam Steel high-sticking penalty just 26 seconds into the game. When Noah Hanifin sent a hopeful shot from the blue line toward goal, Stone reached out his stick to deflect the puck past Stars goalkeeper Jake Oettinger and subdue the raucous crowd early.

“It was a big goal for us to get off to a good start on the road. That’s key,” Stone said. “The power play clutched up for us today and got two big goals for us to get off to a good start and get the chemistry there. Obviously, I haven’t played a lot of hockey in the last two months. I’ve been on the ice, but the games are different. I’m not just jumping into a preseason game in September, I’m playing a playoff game in April, so you have to be ready.”

Stone’s goal was the first of five scored in the first period, with Marchessault doubling the Golden Knights’ lead at the 8:27 mark. The team’s would exchange the final three goals, all coming in the final 3:53 of the period, with goals from Stars captain Jamie Benn and Jason Robertson sandwiched in between Hertl’s goal at 17:51, the second power play goal for Vegas on the evening.

McNabb, who did not score a goal in 21 playoff games last season and only scored four times this season, beat a screened Oettinger with a 50-foot shot from the left point just 1:06 into the second period to reestablish Vegas’ two-goal lead at 4-2.

McNabb’s goal was on the 10th shot of the game for the Golden Knights, who managed just one more shot during the second period and only had four attempts on goal in the third period. Dallas doubled Vegas’ shots-on-goal count with 30 on the night, but goalkeeper Logan Thompson stood tall for the Golden Knights with 27 saves.

“We didn’t give them much. A tight checking game,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “You’ve got two teams that play pretty tight so that’s what it’s going to look like. You can’t chase the game the whole series. We were chasing the game all night, and we’ve got to fix that going forward.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Monday evening’s contest, with photos taken by ALOST staff photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 25 pictures in total.

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Tags : Dallas StarsNational Hockey LeagueStanley Cup PlayoffsVegas Golden Knights

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