Updated January 26, 2021 - 11:43 pm
Alex Pietrangelo looked like he swallowed a bug when he talked about facing his former club this week, so the Golden Knights defenseman probably didn’t mind the spotlight being elsewhere Tuesday.
But the attention shifted for all the wrong reasons.
About two hours before the opening faceoff, the Knights announced that their coaching staff would miss the game because of COVID-19 protocols and began self-isolating “out of an abundance of caution.”
General manager Kelly McCrimmon coached the Knights during a 5-4 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues at T-Mobile Arena and confirmed afterward a member of the coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19.
McCrimmon said the Knights will close City National Arena on Wednesday, and the finale of the two-game series remains scheduled for Thursday at T-Mobile Arena.
The timetable for when coach Pete DeBoer and assistants Steve Spott, Ryan McGill, Ryan Craig and Mike Rosati can return is unclear.
The Knights had four players test positive in November, but had not been directly affected by the coronavirus during the regular season until Tuesday.
“We had an exposure on our coaching staff. The best way to handle that is to isolate the entire staff,” McCrimmon said. “I don’t know what (the next steps) are at this point. These things, there’s a process that you follow. As more information is available, we’ll make further decisions.”
The coaching change overshadowed Pietrangelo’s first game against the Blues, whom he captained to the Stanley Cup in 2019.
McCrimmon said the decision was made at 3 p.m. for him to replace DeBoer, and defenseman Alec Martinez said players found out when they arrived at T-Mobile in the afternoon.
The Knights’ lineup was unaffected, as 20 players suited up for the game, though the change might have been partly responsible for the Knights twice being penalized for too many men on the ice.
“We didn’t know what we were doing originally, but it worked out fine,” Pietrangelo said. “It was a little bit of an adjustment, sure. I’m not sure what the plan is moving forward, but we’ll feel more comfortable on Thursday, I’m sure.”
Max Pacioretty finished off his hat trick with two goals in the third period to help the Knights rally from a pair of two-goal deficits and earn a point.
David Perron and Brayden Schenn scored in the shootout for the Blues. Perron had two first-period goals against his former team.
Shea Theodore converted in the shootout against Blues goalie Jordan Binnington.
Mark Stone added three assists for the Knights, and Martinez finished with two assists. Pietrangelo had an assist in his first game against his former club.
“This is probably not the (last) time you’re going to see something like that happen in the league. I’m proud of the way guys handled it,” Martinez said. “Obviously, a weird situation, but that’s just kind of how things are going to go this year, I think.”
Alex Tuch opened the scoring for the Knights at 3:17 of the first period before Perron responded with two goals for St. Louis, which led 3-1 after the first period.
Knights goalie Robin Lehner debuted his new equipment setup and allowed three goals on the first seven shots he faced before settling down.
Pacioretty converted on a power play midway through the third period and tied the game when he buried a pass from Martinez at 16:35.
“We’re a very structured team, so that helps in a situation like this,” Pacioretty said. “I don’t know how many times this has ever happened in the history of hockey, but, like I said, just a different voice back there but same structure. I thought we played a strong game.”