Updated February 13, 2024 - 7:53 pm
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo got a fancy pregame ceremony where he received a gold stick and heaps of praise from the Golden Knights and their fans at T-Mobile Arena on Monday.
All the Minnesota Wild got out of the occasion was a victory.
Forwards Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy scored third-period goals 1:01 apart to break a 2-2 tie and lift the Wild to a 5-3 victory against the Knights.
The evening still centered around Pietrangelo. The 34-year-old was honored for playing in his 1,000th NHL game. His family even joined him on the ice before puck drop for a special celebration.
“It’s still an awesome night for him and his family,” captain Mark Stone said. “An amazing achievement. First guy to do it wearing this jersey. Whether it was a win or a loss, you don’t want to take away from how special it was for not only him and his family but for all of us.”
It looked at first like the Knights (31-16-6) would reward Pietrangelo with a victory.
He picked up an assist just 22 seconds into the game on a goal by right wing Jonathan Marchessault.
The lead didn’t last long. Right wing Mats Zuccarello tied the game with 9:12 remaining in the first period for the Wild on a 5-on-3 power play. Center Joel Eriksson Ek gave Minnesota its first lead 1:21 later, scoring as another power play expired.
Right wing Michael Amadio tied the game with 2:15 left in the first period thanks to another Pietrangelo assist.
Rossi gave the Wild (24-23-5) the lead back 6:28 into the third. Boldy’s goal soon after put Minnesota up 4-2.
Coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t happy with either goal.
“Third period in our building in a tie game and we basically, I don’t want to say self-destruct, but I don’t know if they really earned them,” Cassidy said. “I think they were gifts, to be honest with you.”
Stone cut the Knights’ deficit to 4-3 with 10:20 remaining in the third, but the team couldn’t find an equalizer. Eriksson Ek added an empty-net goal for the Wild with 22 seconds left. The defeat was just the Knights’ second in regulation their last 10 games.
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
1. Whitecloud returns to lineup
Defenseman Zach Whitecloud played Monday after being a healthy scratch in Thursday’s win against the Arizona Coyotes.
Cassidy said Whitecloud was the odd man out with defenseman Daniil Miromanov returning from an injury and defenseman Kaedan Korczak playing well. Korczak was sent back down to Henderson on Saturday.
“We’re trying to get a look at Miromanov, so that’s first and foremost,” Cassidy said. “We just felt Korczak was playing really consistent hockey so we put him ahead of Zach for that game. It’s not a long-term thing but sometimes it’s good for a player to know that this young guy is pushing from underneath.”
Cassidy said the reality is not everyone can be in the lineup when everyone is healthy. The competition will soon get even tighter.
Defensemen Ben Hutton and Tobias Bjornfot are both practicing as they work their way back from an upper-body and an undisclosed injury, respectively. Defenseman Shea Theodore has skated with his teammates three times in a red no-contact jersey while working his way back from an upper-body injury that required surgery.
Cassidy didn’t rule out Theodore for Saturday’s home game against Carolina.
“He’s skating,” Cassidy said. “I can’t tell you when he’ll be in, but he’s getting much closer.”
2. Under the weather
Two players missed Monday’s game with a bug going around the Knights’ locker room.
Goaltender Logan Thompson was unavailable with an illness. Jiri Patera backed up starting goaltender Adin Hill in Thompson’s stead.
Left wing Paul Cotter was also ruled out with an illness before the game. Sheldon Rempal was recalled from Henderson and took Cotter’s spot on the third line.
3. He’ll be back
The Wild opted to start goaltender Filip Gustavsson in net Monday instead of former Knight Marc-Andre Fleury.
It’s unclear if Fleury plans to play beyond this season after his contract expires, but he still has another visit to T-Mobile Arena remaining on his schedule. Minnesota will return to Las Vegas to play the Knights on April 12.