Defending Cup champ Vegas has new Knights while seeking 2-0 series lead over top seed Dallas

Golden Knights newcomers Tomas Hertl and Noah Hanifin have finally gotten in a game with captain Mark Stone. After an impressive first game all together in the NHL playoffs, they are looking for a 2-0 series lead over Western Conference top seed Dallas even before going home to Vegas.

“It's good for chemistry,” Hanifin said. “Just to get back for Game 1 and kind of feel like we’re clicking there, I think that’s huge for confidence.”

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Dallas (9:30 p.m. ET/ESPN), where last year Vegas wrapped up the Western Conference Final with a Game 6 victory. The Knights opened this postseason there as a No. 8 seed in a 4-3 victory, with Hanifin assisting on power-play goals by Stone and Hertl, the first coming only 1:23 into the game.

The two other playoff games Wednesday night will be played in Canada, including the first series to get to a Game 3 and switch locales. The Bruins and Maple Leafs split their first two games in Boston before moving to Toronto, and Edmonton will try to take a 2-0 series lead at home against the Los Angeles Kings.

While 22 of the 27 players on the Knights' postseason roster were part of their Stanley Cup title last year, they were able to be aggressive at the trade deadline in March when Stone was on long-term injured reserved for a lacerated spleen and his salary didn't count toward the NHL's cap. That allowed them to acquire two-time All-Star center Hertl, past All-Star defenseman Hanifin and forward Anthony Mantha.

Hertl was on the injured list recovering from knee surgery for the first month after being acquired from San Jose. He got in the six regular-season games late, but spent a lot of time before that with Stone. The captain missed the last 26 games after getting hurt Feb. 20, before the new additions.

“We talked a lot of hockey over the last month or so rehabbing. We watched the games together and talked a lot of hockey and had some debates," Stone said. “It was awesome to have those kind of discussions, and a lot of our theories aligned, so that helps knowing that you are on the same page going into the games. ... We’re still trying to find some chemistry. Both of us think there were some plays to be made that were just a hair off, but those will come.”

The Stars trailed in all three of their playoff series last year, losing the openers and being down 1-2 in their first two series before coming back to beat Minnesota in six games and Seattle in seven. Dallas then lost its first three games to Vegas before pushing the West final to six games.

“We're here again and we have to deal with it,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said Tuesday. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say that it’s great. I also have great confidence in our group that we will respond, and that one win in these type of series swings the momentum greatly.”

BRUINS at MAPLE LEAFS, Series tied 1-1, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

The Bruins will be without defenseman Andrew Peeke after he took a puck off his hand in the 3-2 loss in Game 2, and blocked a shot with the inside of his foot.

Coach Jim Montgomery said Peeke will not be in Toronto for Games 3 and 4, and described him as “week to week.”

The Maple Leafs take the series home after beating Boston for the first time since Nov. 5, 2022. They had dropped eight in a row against their Atlantic Division rival, seven over the past two regular seasons before Game 1 of this series.

Bruins captain Brad Marchand said Toronto is playing good playoff-type hockey, “a lot more physical, very committed to forechecking, playing very tight defensively.”

KINGS at OILERS, Oilers lead 1-0, 10 p.m. ET (TBS)

Los Angeles was one of the NHL's best teams on penalty kills during the regular season. None of that matters when playing Edmonton.

The Oilers are 6 of 17 on power plays in five games against LA this season, including 3 of 4 in the playoff opener they won 7-4. The Kings were second in the league during the regular season at 84.6% on penalty killing.

“We’ve gone through this over the last couple months of the season where we’ve had a game where we didn’t play well at all. And I’m here to tell you that every time we had one of those, we came back strong," Kings coach Jim Hiller said. "We’re going to have to do that.”

Edmonton is 12 of 20 on power plays against the Kings over their last seven playoff meetings. The Oilers won a six-game series last year.


AP Sports Writer Joe Reedy contributed to this report.


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