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Led by new captain, VGK opens season with 5-2 win over Anaheim

The Vegas Golden Knights used three third period goals in order to secure a win in their fourth opening night in franchise history.

Vegas beat the Anaheim Ducks, 5-2, Thursday, Jan. 14 from T-Mobile Arena in both team’s first game of the year.

“I think when you talk about this team obviously you see the talent and the speed but the chemistry is a word that you always hear our guys talk about,” head coach Pete DeBoer said. “We’ve got a lot of leaders in that room.”

With a 1-0 record to start the year, the Knights will turn their attention to a Saturday, Jan. 16 against these same Ducks.

As a franchise, Vegas is now 3-1 on opening night.

Head coach Pete DeBoer opens his first full campaign as VGK head coach 1-0 after leading the team to a 15-5 record to end the year last season.

The team was eliminated in the conference semifinals to the eventual Stanley Cup champion, Dallas Stars.

Part of DeBoer’s new recipe for success included naming the first-ever captain in Golden Knights history when he chose right-wing Mark Stone earlier this week.

Following the decision, Stone admitted that his job as captain doesn’t really change his job on the ice.

A day later, Stone would go on to score the game-winning goal just 49 seconds into the third and final period against Anaheim.

“We were just a little bit sloppy,” he said when asked about a scoreless second period. “We’ve got some big guys up front and some good puck-moving defensemen on the bad ends so when we can kind of get a little bit grittier, cycle the puck, force their defense out of position -- that’s where opportunities are created and that’s kind of what happened on my goal.”

He was second on the Golden Knights last year with 63 points.

“We talked at the end of the second period about how we wanted to come out in the third,” DeBoer said. “[We really wanted] to take the game over and dictate more rather than stand around and watch. [Stone] led the way, that’s why he’s wearing the ‘C’.”

Center Chandler Stephenson and defensemen Alex Pietrangelo both assisted on Stone’s game-winning goal.

It was the first point for Pietrangelo in a Vegas uniform.

“A little different without the fans obviously,” he said. “But I feel like I’ve adjusted well, I’ve been here for a little while getting used to my surroundings. I think it was nice to come down here for the scrimmages too in preseason and get some kind of routine.”

Later, Stone would assist left-wing Max Pacioretty on an insurance goal with less than 10 minutes left in regulation.

“Obviously a great second-effort from our leader,” Pacioretty said. “After a big goal to get us ahead, that second-effort to get it over to me -- I saw the referee’s arm go up so I was hoping there was a penalty on that, but it was just a great second-effort play to ice the game.”

Pacioretty was first on the team last year in points.

Stone also added a career-high five hits in the contest.

Early season emotions were high on both sides with four goals coming in the first eight minutes of the game.

Center Jonathan Marchessault scored the first goal of the year for Vegas a little over a minute into the game off assists from defensemen Alec Martinez and Shea Theodore.

He had 22 goals last season, good for third on the team.

Less than a minute and a half later, left-wing Tomas Nosek added another point on the board off an assist from right-wing Ryan Reaves.

Nosek scored eight goals last year in 67 games played.

Right-wing Alex Tuch added another insurance goal in empty net fashion with under 20 seconds left in the game.

Tuch had been listed as day-to-day this week due to undisclosed reasons.

Another big move for DeBoer was opting to come into the season with a 13-5 roster format as opposed to the traditional 12-6.

DeBoer chose to enter the year with 13 forwards and five defensemen.

All five defensemen logged at least 22 minutes with Pietrangelo leading the way with over 25 minutes of time on ice.

“I thought the lineup was a non-factor tonight,” DeBoer said. “I thought all five [defensemen] got good ice and a good rhythm and a lot of minutes and they all played well.

“Up front, the 13 forwards -- I mean Kolesar didn’t get as many shifts as the other groups but I think we got a goal from all four lines so that’s kind of a key formula for us.”

With St. Louis last year, Pietrangelo led the Blues in total time on ice with nearly 1700 minutes.

Goaltender Robin Lehner started the first game of the year after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

He responded with 20 saves, facing 22 shots in his first game action since mid-September for a save percentage of .909.

“It’s a little different for sure but I think, same with the bubble, we’ve done a good job here as an organization to get ready,” Lehner said. “Playing a bunch of scrimmages and getting everyone started early so it’s going to take some time to get fully adjusted but I think we’re a lot better prepared then a lot of other teams.”


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