This is how the Golden Knights have to win for now, leaning on whichever top players are actually on the ice.
Counting on big names while others sit and heal.
On guys like Mark Stone.
The Knights, their very own M*A*S*H unit existing on injured reserve, have a pencil-thin margin for error right now.
That can all be countered with a game such as the one Stone offered Monday afternoon.
The captain provided all the scoring needed, his hat trick leading to a 4-1 victory against Nashville before 17,719 at T-Mobile Arena.
The Knights needed this. They need anything good right now given the amount of injuries that have hit them. Each win is coveted. Each point is embraced.
The Knights will have to take advantage of any serious chances over 60 minutes. Have to be opportunistic as all heck. Have to mix it all with solid goaltending until players begin working themselves back into the lineup.
It’s a strategy that worked Monday, a defensive victory with Stone going crazy on offense and Logan Thompson playing more than solid in net.
What the Knights can’t do is try and be something they’re not — individuals attempting to climb out of their own skates and into someone else’s. That doesn’t work. You are who you are. Stone on Monday was just really good.
“I’m not going to be Jack Eichel and whoever is not going to be Shea Theodore,” Stone said. “You just have to be the best version of yourself. Play that team game. Different guys are going to step up at different times. Just play your game.
“I was fortunate enough to be in some shooting spots. I would have been a fool to pass them up. Those come some days and other days they don’t.”
Stone hadn’t scored since Dec. 27 and yet had five assists in his last seven games entering Monday. The Knights started slow against Nashville, their first shot coming 15 minutes into things.
But then Stone found himself in the slot and beat goaltender Juuse Saros on his team’s first real chance of the afternoon. Stone would add a second just 1:11 into the second period off a beautiful feed from center Chandler Stephenson, who was questionable to play with an illness.
If all sick guys could pass like that.
The third goal — it was Stone’s third career hat trick and first in the regular season — came four-on-four in the final minute of the second. Stephenson again with the assist.
“Yeah, (Stone) was pretty good,” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He and (Stephenson) — you saw their chemistry. We need a game like that once in a while, especially when an individual goes above and beyond. Good timing for us.
“It’s funny. His goals — glove, 5-hole, blocker — were three different spots. He wasn’t predictable. He was taking what was there.”
Thompson would stop all but one of 35 shots he faced and those in front would collectively lead the way. The Knights played defensively as they expect to, this day winning battles and breaking the puck out cleanly more times than not. But nobody stood taller, nobody played better, than the guy with a “C” on his sweater.
“Whether he scores a hat trick or not at all, he’s always going to get us moving the right way,” defenseman Nic Hague said. “He was obviously able to do that with how he played, which was great. He plays with so much emotion and so much heart. It’s great to see. That’s a game I really think we needed.”
They needed someone to step up, to combat that pencil-thin margin for error. Mark Stone answered the challenge.
He would slam his stick across the glass following his third goal, his celebratory fist pump followed by swarms of hats being tossed into the ice.
He didn’t try and be someone else. Didn’t try to change his skates for another’s. Was just the best version of himself.
He would have been a fool not to be.
Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.