Knights without coaching staff, lose to Blues 5-4

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It took the coronavirus to knock the storyline of Alex Pietrangelo facing his former team for the first time off the front page.

The Golden Knights found themselves impacted by the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols Tuesday. But it wasn’t the players who were targeted. It was head coach Peter DeBoer and his staff.

DeBoer was not behind the bench against the St. Louis Blues and he had to watch on television as his team battled back from a 4-2 deficit thanks to a hat trick from Max Pacioretty, only to lose in a shootout, 5-4, at T-Mobile Arena.

The team released a statement 90 minutes before the opening faceoff which read: “Out of an abundance of caution, the Vegas Golden Knights coaching staff will be self-isolating for Tuesday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues due to COVID-19 protocols. Vegas Golden Knights General Manager Kelly McCrimmon will be behind the bench Tuesday along with members of the Henderson Silver Knights coaching staff.” 

No players were on the list and were not held out. 

McCrimmon was last seen behind the bench back in 2016 as the head coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings. He was also general manager and owner of the Western Hockey League club and left after that season to become the Knights’ assistant GM to George McPhee.

“Based on the way things unfolded,we did what we had to do,” said McCrimmon. “We had a positive test with one of our coaches ad the decision was made at 3 o’clock. Our efforts were made to get through the game.

“I give the players a lot of credit. They played hard.” 

The players felt fine having McCrimmon call the shots.

“He’s coached plenty of hockey games in his life,” Mark Stone said.

Pacioretty said: “We have such good structure on this team, it doesn’t change much. We’re all on the same page. It’s just a different voice on the bench.” 

Alec Martinez said: “I thought the guys were professional and handled it well. Obviously, it was a weird situation, but that’s what you have to expect this season.”

The Knights had an early 1-0 lead thanks to Alex Tuch. But they found themselves chasing the game as the Blues got a pair from former Golden Knight David Perron to go up 3-1, then 4-2 in the second period.

Pacioretty got Vegas even with his pair of goals in the third period, giving him six in his first seven games. Both teams had great opportunities in overtime, especially Perron, who walked in alone on Robin Lehner but could not register his own hat trick.

In the shootout, Perron redeemed himself and scored, as did Brayden Schenn while Shea Theodore scored the Knights’ lone goal. 

Lehner got off to a shaky start but got better as the game went on. He came up with a couple of big saves to keep his team in it. Conversely, the Knights, who had 46 shots on goal, also hit the post or the crossbar a half-dozen times to help Jordan Binnington get the win.

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For Pietrangelo, who assisted on Tuch’s goal, it was a disappointing evening facing his former mates after opting for free agency and signing with the Knights.

“It wasn’t all that strange,” Pietrangelo said. “I knew this day was going to come. Once you get out there after the first couple of shifts, you’re just playing. We made a great comeback and it’s too bad we couldn’t get the win.” 

McCrimmon said the team will see how things go Wednesday (the team’s facility, City National Arena, will be closed) and plan for Thursday’s rematch with the Blues. If he sees to stay behind the bench, he will.

“I don’t know where we are right now,” he said. 

As for the result, he’ll take the one point earned, especially given the strange circumstances.

“When you get a point at home, you don’t call it a good point,” he said. “But when you’re down two goals in the third period, that’s a good point.”

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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