Alex Pietrangelo’s first game against the team he captained to a Stanley Cup didn’t go as planned, for a lot of reasons, really.
But despite the Vegas Golden Knights’ best efforts to rally from a two-goal deficit twice, the St. Louis Blues survived with a 5-4 shootout victory at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday.
Pietrangelo was a plus-1 and had an assist in a game-high 28:57 in the first game against his former team. He was also on the wrong end of the Vegas highlights in the second period for reasons you’ll see soon.
“Honestly, it felt like a normal game. I think once you get out there and you start playing, that kind of all gets pushed to the side,” Pietrangelo said. “First couple shifts, obviously it’s a little bit different, but I think once we settled in, I felt fine.”
Going in to Tuesday, the storyline was, of course, Pietrangelo facing the Blues. That changed quickly at around 3 p.m. when it was announced coach Pete DeBoer and his staff had to self-isolate as an abundance of caution due to COVID-19 tracing. Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon was the acting coach for the night, and later confirmed a member of the Vegas coaching staff tested positive.
“It’s not a case where the entire staff tested positive. Most that didn’t, quite frankly, but the protocol is such that you pull those people from the group,” McCrimmon said. “But fortunately there’s been no positive tests for players. Based on how the day unfolded, we took the steps that we did to best prepare our team to play tonight.”
And yet, a game was still played on this night. Things happened, and a result was had. Let’s hand out some grades.
If this were the Max Pacioretty category, it’d be an A-plus.
Pacioretty’s seventh NHL hat trick is the only reason Vegas was able to squeeze a point from this game. Tack on the seven hit posts, including two in overtime, and the Golden Knights should’ve won this game.
Rallying from multiple goals down against the Blues has become a common theme. It’s the third consecutive regular season meeting, all at T-Mobile Arena, that saw the Knights rally and at least force overtime. The Golden Knights’ top line, once again, came through when needed. Pacioretty is tied atop the league leaderboard with six goals; Mark Stone’s three assists puts him tied for third with 11 points.
Alex Tuch, who scored the other goal Tuesday, continues to be a force. He would’ve had a two-goal night had the post not turned his five-hole attempt aside late in the third.
It’s hard to find a weak point in this Vegas offense, and the fact they out-attempted this heavy St. Louis squad 83-48 should bode well for Thursday.
Not sure if you could’ve picked a worse way to start defensively for the Golden Knights.
After Tuch’s goal, defenseman Alec Martinez turned the puck over behind the net, which led to the first of two David Perron goals in the period. Martinez turned it over a second time, this one leading to Jaden Schwartz’s goal, to put Vegas in an early two-goal hole.
The Knights were buzzing after Pacioretty cut the lead to 3-2 early in the second, but Pietrangelo’s turnover at the blue line sprung Jordan Kyrou to out-hustle his former teammate, go full-on grown-man mode and beat Lehner glove side.
Pietrangelo has had an up-and-down start to his Golden Knights tenure, as has his defense partner Brayden McNabb. The two were on the ice for 16 Blues shots while only registering 15; they allowed five high-danger chances (including Kyrou’s goal) and allowed 11 scoring chances in total. All in all, it’s been a rough go some nights for the Knights’ top pair.
The Blues are a heavy team at both ends and it showed in that first period. They roughed Vegas up and forced them on their heels defensively; something the Ducks nor Coyotes did through six games. It’s absurd how intelligent the Blues are. You make enough mistakes against them, you’re in trouble.
I want to give Robin Lehner the benefit of the doubt, but it’s been a rough past two starts for Vegas’ netminder.
Lehner has allowed eight goals in those two starts; he hadn’t lost back-to-back starts with Vegas in the regular season up until now. It was bound to happen, but his name is not Marc-Andre Fleury. Therefore, criticisms thrown his way are magnified by default, deserving or not.
Lehner made two fantastic sprawling skate saves that could’ve made this game even worse of an outcome for Vegas; notably the one on Ryan O’Reilly in the second period. Big man can indeed move when he wants to.
Perron’s first goal is one Lehner had to stop, going short side with Chandler Stephenson and Martinez screening in front. The Schwartz goal, looking live, didn’t look to be deflected by Nicolas Roy as some mentioned it was. Replay didn’t provide a great angle, but that’s one you can argue Lehner should’ve also made.
It’s too premature to award the championship bout to Fleury, but 3-0 is a lot better than 2-2. Fleury will get a chance to make a loud statement Thursday.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-
It took a 5-on-3 for the Golden Knights to capitalize against the fifth-worst penalty killing unit in the NHL. That’s all you need to know
To go 1-for-6 against this group is a sign that the come-to-Jesus meeting is needed. Now 3-for-26 on the season, it’s not even the lack of scoring that’s the issue. It’s getting to the point where Vegas can’t even enter the zone cleanly with a 5-on-4. This was arguably the worst Vegas has looked on the power play this season.
Outside of giving up Perron’s power-play goal, the penalty kill did fine, particularly Nicolas Roy. He was probably Vegas’ best special teams player.
The Golden Knights need to figure out this power play. There’s too much talent on both units to struggle this heavily. I get we’re seven games into a shortened season and maybe expectations are a tad high, but when we’re entering sloppy special teams territory, it’s a problem.
Danny Webster is the newest columnist and reporter for Vegas Hockey Now. He is the Golden Knights beat writer for NHL dot com. Catch him on Twitter @DannyWebster21