When the Vegas Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues square off, it’s generally a thrilling hockey game. Tuesday night’s matchup at T-Mobile Arena was no exception.
Even before the puck was dropped, there was drama heading into this game. With the entire Vegas coaching staff self-isolating for COVID-19 precautionary reasons, general manager Kelly McCrimmon along with the Henderson Silver Knights coaching staff manned the bench for the Knights.
The game also marked Alex Pietrangelo’s first game against his former team.
This game had a bit of everything.
From Mark Stone’s fight against Justin Faulk to Max Pacioretty’s hat trick to outstanding saves, lead changes, post after post, plenty of action at both ends, 3-on-3 overtime and a shootout, it was another Knights-Blues classic.
But unlike in the past, Vegas did not come out on top, even if the Knights came away with a much-deserved point.
The Knights held an edge in Corsi in all three periods, with a particularly lopsided 27-13 (32-14 at all strengths) advantage in the opening frame.
But Blues netminder Jordan Binnington had an outstanding game and kept this from being a Vegas blowout.
It was actually Vegas that got on the board first, though, as Alex Tuch opened the scoring just over three minutes into the game. He used his great speed to his advantage and beat Binnington short-side; Pietrangelo picked up the secondary assist on the play.
But former Knights forward David Perron erased that lead just 51 seconds later and then put the Blues up 2-1 on the power play just over four minutes after that. Jaden Schwartz added to the damage with a goal less than two minutes later.
The Knights outshot St. Louis 17-8 but found themselves trailing by two after one. Robin Lehner wasn’t sharp in the first period and was visibly frustrated after a few goals.
Two of the goals came off turnovers by Alec Martinez, who had a rough night despite recording two assists.
Second time a Martinez turnover has led to a goal. Also the second time Lehner would probably want that one back. pic.twitter.com/fGe1mMeFi9— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) January 27, 2021
In the second, the Knights lit the lamp early once again as Pacioretty scored his first of the game to bring Vegas within one.
St. Louis actually led in scoring chances in the second period (13-6 at all strengths), though Lehner came up with an especially key stop on Ryan O’Reilly to keep it a one-goal game.
But just after one of Vegas’ seven posts in the game, a costly turnover by Pietrangelo led to a back-breaking goal mid-way through the frame, as Jordan Kyrou scored to make it 4-2.
The Knights didn’t crumble, as Pacioretty led the way with two more goals in the third period.
The first came on the power play, which went 1-for-6 on the night despite facing St. Louis’ bottom-five ranked penalty kill. The goal even came on the dreaded 5-on-3 as Pacioretty scored on a wrist shot from the blue line.
He completed the hat trick at 16:35 of the third. Martinez and Stone assisted on the goal for the second time in the game; Stone finished the night with three assists.
It was another case where the Knights got a huge save at one end and then scored at the other, as a critical blocker save by Lehner immediately preceded the game-tying tally.
Overtime was chaotic, with both teams exchanging chances and both goalies making big saves. Ultimately, St. Louis outlasted Vegas with a 2-1 win in the shootout, with one of the goals coming off the stick of Perron. Brayden Schenn and Shea Theodore also scored.
Pietrangelo finished the game with an assist, a plus-one rating, three shots, two hits and three blocks in 28:57 of ice time. It was his first game against his former team since signing a seven-year deal with Vegas in the offseason. He has four points through seven games this year.
The Knights’ comeback forced overtime in a game they largely dominated.
It’s not a win, but it’s a small victory of sorts that the Knights came away with a point, which seemed highly unlikely early on.
Vegas ultimately potted four goals on Binnington, but he was the Blues’ best player and made 42 saves in total, including 10 of 11 on the penalty kill. Plus, though the Knights hit the post seven times, some of that has to do with Binnington’s positioning even if most of it was just bad luck.
But this was a game Vegas should have won.
The rough opening frame in which St. Louis scored three goals in just over six minutes is where this game was lost; between turnovers, suspect goaltending and an inability to convert, Vegas fell behind early. The comeback is a good sign after Vegas scored just three goals in its previous two games, but every point is especially important this season, and tonight was a missed opportunity.
But unlike the 5-2 loss in Arizona, Vegas’ only regulation loss of the season, the Knights were never out of this game, and they were the better team.
The Knights held St. Louis to under 10 shots in every period, including just four in the third.
At 5-on-5, Vegas led in Corsi (62.22 percent) and high-danger Corsi (52.94 percent), shot share (63.04 percent) and scoring chance share (55.56 percent) as well as expected goal share (61.51 percent). Both teams scored three goals at 5-on-5 and one on the power play; Vegas’ penalty kill went 4-for-5 on the night, once again proving to be one of Vegas’ strengths.
But Vegas’ struggling power play continues to be an issue, even if the Knights converted for a key goal late in the game.
The Knights even struggled with zone entries against one of the worst penalty kills in the league. The power play is something Vegas needs to address moving forward.
The players didn’t find out about the coaching situation until they arrived at T-Mobile Arena; that’s something that could become an issue, as one member of the coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19.
The loss brings Vegas’ record to 5-1-1 on the year; these teams will meet for a rematch Thursday night. Marc-Andre Fleury likely will be between the pipes.