Blues squander late lead but hang on for 5-4 shootout victory over Golden Knights
LAS VEGAS — Missing all their coaches, Max Pacioretty and the Vegas Golden Knights still managed to earn a point.
Strange night, but they’ll certainly take it.
David Perron and Brayden Schenn scored in a shootout Tuesday to give the St. Louis Blues a 5-4 victory over Vegas. Pacioretty got his seventh career hat trick for the Golden Knights, who were without their entire coaching staff because of COVID-19 concerns.
General manager Kelly McCrimmon took over head coaching duties and was assisted by three coaches from the club’s AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights: head coach Manny Viveiros and assistants Jamie Heward and Joel Ward.
Vegas players said they didn’t even know about the situation until they got to the arena.
“It was news to us when we arrived,” said Alex Pietrangelo, who spent his first 12 seasons with the Blues and was facing them for the first time since signing with Vegas in the offseason. “Crimmer’s coached before, we had the (coaches) from Henderson come up, they know what they’re doing, too. So we didn’t know what the plan was originally, but it worked out fine.”
Even after Robin Lehner allowed three goals on the first seven shots he faced as the Golden Knights fell into a 3-1 hole.
Perron scored twice in regulation, and Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Kyrou also had goals for St. Louis (4-2-1). Jordan Binnington was brilliant in net for the Blues, finishing with 42 saves, including five in overtime.
Alex Tuch added a goal for Vegas. Shea Theodore scored during the shootout, and Lehner made 21 saves.
It marked the fifth time in 11 meetings since Vegas entered the NHL in 2017 that the teams played into overtime.
Not only did the Golden Knights (5-1-1) lose for the second time in three games, but they were disrupted by coronavirus for the first time this season. Roughly two hours before puck drop the team announced it would be without its coaching staff.
“It’s not a case where the entire staff tested positive,” said McCrimmon, who did confirm that a Golden Knights coach had a positive test. “Most didn’t, frankly. … We’re fortunate there’s been no positive tests for players.”
The club said the entire staff, including coach Peter DeBoer, would self-quarantine “out of an abundance of caution.” Vegas’ staff is composed of DeBoer, assistants Steve Spott, Ryan Craig and Ryan McGill, and goaltending coach Mike Rosati.
After Tuch put the Golden Knights on the board 3:17 into the game, the Blues took over. Perron tied it with a nifty wrist shot that sneaked between Lehner and the post less than a minute later, then got his second of the game and third of the season just six seconds into St. Louis’ first power play, sending a blistering slap shot past Lehner’s blocker.
Schwartz scored two minutes later when he sent a shot off the crossbar and in, pushing the lead to 3-1.
Pacioretty’s snapper from the slot early in the second cut the lead to one, but Kyrou would answer later when he poked the puck free from Pietrangelo, skated past his former teammate while holding him off into the offensive zone, gathered the puck and roofed a wrist shot Lehner never saw to give St. Louis a 4-2 lead.
Pacioretty scored twice in the third period, his team-leading fifth and sixth goals of the season, to rally Vegas and force overtime.
“I think that we will take some confidence,” St. Louis coach Craig Berube said. “I felt like we get leads in this building, and then we try to hang on a little bit. We’ve got to defend better. I think we’ve just got to close these games in here. We have the lead, we just can’t shut it down.”
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McCrimmon said the Golden Knights’ practice facility will be shut down Wednesday.
While the Blues came into the game tied for the sixth-worst penalty kill, having allowed 10 goals in 30 power-play situations, Vegas couldn’t capitalize much — again. The Golden Knights were 1 for 6 with a man advantage and are 3 of 26 (11.5%) this season.
Lehner — affectionately known as “Panda” — made his 23rd start for the Golden Knights. He allowed four goals only once in the first 21, but has given up four goals in each of his last two.
Vegas and St. Louis close their two-game series at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday. It is unclear if DeBoer and his assistants will be cleared to return by then.