He had just hit a shot into the open net and his celebration was prolific, arm waving and yelling, hugging his teammates. The caps started flying right after that, covering the ice in black and gold sequins and Vegas Golden Knights logos.
It was 14:06 of the third period, and the Golden Knights led the Florida Panthers by a five-goal lead that would eventually expand to six in the game. 9-3 winning Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at the T-Mobile Arena. Stone knew in that moment that he was winning the Stanley Cup, that hard work was paying off, and that rehab, back surgery and hope had resulted in a moment he couldn’t have even dreamed of.
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Because who dreams that big?
To be the captain of the team, to have a hat-trick in a Stanley Cup-clinching game, to bounce back from the experiences Stone went through?
This is the stuff of fairy tales.
“Once we get that cozy introduction, your head starts spinning, right?” Stone said. “All you can think about is throwing your gloves and helmet in the air and celebrating with your teammates. I can’t wait to keep celebrating.”
Then he raised the cup.
“Words just can’t describe it,” Stone said. “It’s the best feeling in the world. You try to immerse yourself in everything, as much as you can. You enjoy the moment. You can’t believe it, can you? It’s finally come true. Your childhood goal, I guess you might say, is to be an NHL player. And once you get there To the NHL, your goal is to win the Stanley Cup.
“Here we are, standing as Stanley Cup champions, and I couldn’t be more excited for this group, this city, and this organization as a whole.”
Video: FLA @ VGK, Gm5: Stone Nets hat trick decides the match
But getting here was not easy.
There were problems with returning to the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals, and last season Stone was limited to 37 regular season games due to injury, and he returned at the end of the season in a vain attempt to get the Golden Knight to the championship. qualifiers.
Instead, he underwent a lumbar discectomy in May of 2022.
This season was supposed to be different, to be better, and to be less painful. but not. Back was injured again on January 12 against the Panthers. This will be his final game of the 2022-23 regular season.
I need surgery again. His second back surgery in nine months was performed by Dr. Chad Brosmack, the doctor who helped fix his teammate Jack Eichelon January 31.
He will have to work and redeem himself. He had to make it happen.
“It’s been a tough couple of years, health-wise,” Stone said. “When the team started to have that success in February, we started to phase in, and that gives you all the energy to work as hard as you can, to come back and be part of this team.”
Video: FLA @ VGK, Gm5: Watch the players lift the trophy
In the midst of it all, his daughter, Scarlett, was born in March. The 3-month-old was held while he celebrated on the ice Tuesday, with his wife, parents and brother Michael, who played last season for the Calgary Flames.
Stone returned for the first game of the Western Conference First Round against the Winnipeg Jets on April 18, three months after he last played.
“An incredible competitor. A great player. A great leader,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “I’m happy for him. He’s had two big surgeries. I didn’t know if he was going to come back and play. We had no idea. It’s good for him.”
In 22 games in the playoffs, Stone had 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists), including those three in the Cup-winning game.
“He’s our leader” forward Jonathan Marquessault He said. “He’s our man. He came in as a sophomore. He was great from the first moment he came in. He was unbelievable. He was a great worker every step of the way, off the ice and on the ice.”
He opened the scoring in the fifth game with a short goal at 11:52 of the first period, becoming the first player to score a short-term goal in a decisive match since 2011, when Patrice Bergeron He did it in Game 7.
But Stone isn’t done yet.
He scored the team’s fifth goal of the match at 17:15 of the second period, adding to a lead that seemed to be growing by the second. Then it was time for the piece of resistance, to complete a hat-trick with a goal into an empty net at 14:06 of the third.
Video: FLA @ VGK, Gm5: Hear from Stone after his cup win
Stone is the fourth player in NHL history with a triple-double for a team playing in a Cup-clinching game, joining Babe Day in Game 5 in 1922 and Ted Kennedy in Game 4 in 1945, both for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Jack Darragh in Game 5 in 1920 for the original Ottawa Senators. Dye, Darragh and Stone are the only ones to do so in a game where their team has already clinched.
It was something Stone didn’t wish for, and wouldn’t even think about while he was going through rehab and working off the ice, wanting himself back on the ice, back into the playoffs, just to drive this. team to the cup.
“For him, he wanted to grind last year, same thing, this year, same thing, he wanted to come back,” Marchesault said. “Honestly, for him to get a hat-trick tonight, you couldn’t write it any better than that. Such a great comeback story.”
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