NHL playoffs: Golden Knights react perfectly to Stars' dirty play in Game 3

The Dallas Stars lashed out with a couple of ugly plays on Tuesday night, but the Golden Knights refused to get dragged to their level.

The Vegas Golden Knights didn't just earn a 4-0 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference final on Tuesday, they put on a clinic in how to remain unfazed in the face of underhanded tactics.

Less than two minutes into the game, the team saw their captain Mark Stone — who has already been the victim of some questionable hits in the playoffs — get taken down by Jamie Benn in inexcusable fashion.

At that point, it would've been easy for the team to lose its cool and retaliate — or at least get involved in a number of unnecessary fights or skirmishes. That's the old-school playoff hockey route. Instead, the team used the ensuing power play to double it's lead and take command of the game.

In lieu of making Benn pay for his crimes physically, the team kept its focus on what it could do to win the game.

“They make a call that gives us a chance to make them pay. We did with one goal," Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. "We doubled our lead. So our guys look at that as ‘OK we’ll try to take a number and be hard on their skill, but we’ll do it the right way.’”

It's not as if the team didn't condemn Benn's play. Jonathan Marchessault made what he thought about the hit clear in his first intermission interview, calling it 'disgusting' and 'not a hockey play'.

You can acknowledge you've been wronged without doing something rash about it. Marchessault and his teammates responded to something that wasn't a hockey play with something that was — a power-play goal from Ivan Barbashev — and they were better for it.

Later in the game, Max Domi delivered a dangerous cross-check to the back of Nicolas Hague.

Hague's response was to laugh in his face.

After the game, Hague commented on his team's ability to rise above the ugliness of plays like the ones Benn and Domi made.

"I’ve never seen it phase us, really," he said. "Which is a credit to the way we are in this locker room. We know we don’t need to fall into that game."

By the time Game 3 was over, Vegas had accumulated just six penalty minute to the Dallas Stars' 35, got four more power plays, and delivered just one less hit.

There are those who will see what Benn did to Stone and firmly believe that the Golden Knights needed to punch some faces or throw some gratuitous hits to demonstrate they had their captain's back — or weren't intimidated.

The Vegas Golden Knights reacted to the Dallas Stars' shenanigans perfectly on Tuesday night. (Getty Images)
The Vegas Golden Knights reacted to the Dallas Stars' shenanigans perfectly on Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

Vegas went in the exact opposite direction. It got its payback on the scoreboard. It showed it wasn't intimidated by continuing to play its game — and literally laughing in the face of a juvenile attempts to send a message.

The Golden Knights aren't in the business of taking the moral high ground. Their job is to win hockey games. It just so happens that you give yourself a better chance to earn victories when you keep a singular focus on putting the puck in your opponent's net and keeping it out of yours.

Dallas lost sight on that on Tuesday night, and now it's down 3-0.