Tonight, the Vegas Golden Knights face a critical Game Four against the Montreal Canadiens. Trailing the series 2-1 the Golden Knights has yet to see a single goal scored by its top-six forwards, instead receiving depth scoring and goals from defensemen in losing two-out-of-three so far.
Mark Stone is feeling the pressure. The team captain led the VGK with 61 points in the regular season and yet has no points in his last four games. Following Game Three he spent a lot of his post-game press conference shouldering the blame for the lifeless power play, lack of scoring and overall malaise of the team. Reasons like this are the reason he’s the team’s first captain. He doesn’t shy away from the bad. But he also knows words don’t score goals.
“We had lots of looks that we need to bear down on,” Stone said. “Our power play needs to be better. Starting from the top, we need to be better. (We have been) skunked for the first three games, we’re the reason the power play isn’t working and we need to be better.”
Stone said much of the same in regards to his line and the overall lack of scoring from forwards. He wants to lead the team to victory, but it’s a struggle when things aren’t going your way. Not to mention how much tighter it gets in the playoffs defensively.
He also lamented the lost opportunity to take Game Three in OT despite the late mistake that led to the Habs tying the game with under two minutes to go in regulation.
“I don’t think we played the way we played for the first 60 (minutes) in OT,” said Stone. “We… were a little too passive, (we) let them come at us and unfortunately gave up that goal.”
It’s interesting to note that the Golden Knights are still saying many of the same things they’ve said all along. They believe in their game. They like their effort. They feel like they deserved a better fate – and were it not for Marc-Andre Fleury’s late mistake might have gotten a win. They’ve also done well to make sure nobody hangs that blame on Fleury.
“We’ve got an opportunity to win tonight and grab control of the series… heading home,” said head coach Pete DeBoer after the morning skate. “We have to have a playoff mentality, a short memory, and be ready for the next (game). We did good things but it didn’t result in a win. I think if we throw that (type of) game out here again tonight I’d expect a better result.”
Stone also feels that the power play not working can steal momentum from the team’s five-on-five play, which he likes.
“In a game like (Game Three) your power play’s gotta step up. We haven’t gotten us any momentum.”
The onus is clearly on the Vegas Golden Knights and their captain for tonight’s game. And yes, there are plenty of other names you could highlight, fingers you could point when it comes to goal scoring. But the yoke of expectation weighs most heavily on Stone. Expect him to bring his best effort of the playoffs tonight.