NHL playoffs early winners, losers: Mark Stone scores, Islanders collapse

Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone scored a goal and the boo birds and conspiracy theorists had a field day as the defending champions beat the Dallas Stars in Game 1 Monday night.

The boos in Dallas were for the situation, not the player. For the second year in a row, Stone had a serious injury (back last year, lacerated spleen this year) and went on long-term injured reserve yet returned for the playoffs. The Golden Knights were able to use that money to exceed the salary cap and make major additions at the trade deadline.

It's all perfectly permissible under the collective-bargaining agreement in the case of a long-term injury. General manager Kelly McCrimmon even anticipated the "insinuation" that would arise and pointed out last week how closely the NHL's medical staff monitors a player on LTIR.

Stone played more than 17 minutes in his return after 26 games out, scored on a first-period deflection and was booed so loudly during an in-arena ESPN interview that he couldn't hear a question.

SABRES: Familiar name hired to be head coach

His return is critical to the Golden Knights' bid to repeat. Trade deadline acquisitions Tomas Hertl (goal) and Noah Hanifin (two assists) also had big games in the 4-3 win.

Six series have gone one game and the Carolina Hurricanes-New York Islanders and Boston Bruins-Toronto Maple Leafs series have gone two. Home teams are 8-2 so far. Here are the winners and losers from the early part of the 2024 NHL playoffs:


Carolina Hurricanes' resilience

They're up 2-0 in their series against the Islanders after a major comeback from a 3-0 deficit for a 5-3 win. The last time they had overcome that big a deficit in the playoffs was when they won the Stanley Cup in 2006. The rally included scoring the tying and winning goals nine seconds apart late in the third period to shatter the team record for fastest two playoff goals.

New York Rangers' Matt Rempe

The 6-foot-8 rookie made a name for himself in the regular season with his fights, his physicality and his suspension. But how would a player who averaged 5 minutes, 38 seconds of ice time fare in the playoffs, when fighting comes close to vanishing? The answer: pretty good in his postseason debut. He was penalized on his first shift, but after that, he scored the Rangers' first goal, was on the ice for their third goal and delivered four hits. He played more than eight minutes.

Edmonton Oilers offense

The Oilers need big games from their stars if they're going to advance far in the playoffs. They got that in a 7-4 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday. Zach Hyman had a hat trick and an assist. Connor McDavid had five assists and Evan Bouchard had four assists. Edmonton went 3-for-4 on the power play. The Kings will have their hands full this series.

Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews

He fell just short of the 70-goal mark in the regular season, but got a huge goal for Toronto on Monday. His breakaway goal was the winner in a 3-2 victory against the Bruins and he added two assists. The Maple Leafs are the other road team with a victory this postseason and return home with their series tied 1-1


New York Islanders' collapse

They had been 81-0 when leading by three goals in the playoffs, according to ESPN. The Islanders weren't able to handle the pressure when the Hurricanes dialed it up on Monday. They were outshot 17-1 in the third period. You can't win a hockey game that way.

Nashville Predators also give up two quick goals

The Vancouver Canucks scored third-period goals 12 seconds apart to turn a 2-1 deficit into an eventual 4-2 victory. "Uncharacteristic for us from the last 40 games or so," Predators coach Andrew Brunette said of Sunday's third period. "It was a little bit of a theme early in the year. Shift after a goal is so important."

Colorado Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev

Georgiev struggled down the stretch, allowing four of more goals in six of his final eight games. He was pulled in a 7-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets that cost Colorado a chance at home ice advantage in their first-round series. The Avalanche couldn't use backup goalie Justus Annunen against the Jets in Game 1 on Sunday because he was sick. Georgiev gave up seven goals on 23 shots in a 7-6 loss. Annunen was still sick on Monday.

Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake

He wasn't able to pull off a trade at the deadline, especially for a goaltender. Cam Talbot gave up six goals against the Kings and the former Oilers goalie was jeered by Edmonton fans. Offseason acquisition Pierre-Luc Dubois has disappointed this season. He did score against the Oilers but it was a fluke that deflected in off Darnell Nurse's skate. Unless the Kings can turn it around, they're looking at a third consecutive first-round loss to the Oilers.

Undisciplined Maple Leafs penalties

It cost them in Game 1 and nearly in Game 2. Boston scored after a Jake McCabe cross-checking penalty early in the game. But Toronto managed to kill off Tyler Bertuzzi's undisciplined slashing penalty in the third period. The Maple Leafs, missing the offense of injured William Nylander, can't afford to give Boston too many chances.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL playoffs winners, losers include Mark Stone, Islanders