Published Monday, Feb. 12, 2024 | 9:51 p.m.
Updated 42 minutes ago
Alex Pietrangelo stood near the center of the Golden Knights’ locker room and was asked how he would remember this night.
Any other night might have resulted in a better answer.
“Yeah, that we lost,” Pietrangelo said. “I like winning. That’s the frustrating part.”
Players only get one crack at their 1,000th NHL game, and not many will be able to say they’ve done it in a Golden Knights sweater. Pietrangelo is the first in the organization to reach that goal. But what was a memorable start to the game turned sour in the third period with the Golden Knights losing 5-3 to the Minnesota Wild at T-Mobile Arena on Monday.
Pietrangelo had two assists, giving him 596 career points throughout his surefire Hall-of-Fame career. He became the 27th active player to reach 1,000 games played.
Even though a deterred Pietrangelo focused on the result in the quick aftermath, he’ll eventually remember it fondly because of getting to share the ice with his family. The Golden Knights held a pregame ceremony for Pietrangelo in honor of the milestone where those important to him got to share the festivities with him.
It’s customary for the Golden Knights’ starting lineup introductions to announce the three forwards first, the two defensemen, then the goalie. PA announcer Bruce Cusick switched it up. With the Golden Knights lined up across their blue line, Pietrangelo was the final player to have his name called.
Pietrangelo skated toward the stretched carpet to be joined by his wife, Jayne, his four children — Evelyn, Oliver, Theodore and Julia — and his parents Joe and Edi. General manager Kelly McCrimmon joined them to present Pietrangelo with a golden stick.
A two-minute, 39-second tribute video played featuring important figures that helped Pietrangelo reach this millennium moment. Jay Bouwmeester, his longtime teammate and best friend in St. Louis, sent his congratulations, followed by former Blues captain David Backes and coach Craig Berube.
The Golden Knights’ contingent followed with messages from defense partner Alec Martinez, captain Mark Stone and coach Bruce Cassidy. Jayne and the kids capped it off with a heartfelt “I love you” message. Martinez and Stone presented Jayne and Edi with bouquets.
“You want to win, but you don’t want to take away from that,” Stone said. “It’s still an awesome night for him and his family. An amazing achievement.”
It was a ceremony befitting of who Pietrangelo is. Not just as a player who has played in 78% of possible games in his career, but as a man who prides himself in family.
Pietrangelo has taken the same approach to hockey as he has in life. He beams with joy whenever he talks about his kids. Life is hectic with four toddlers running around the house. It’s a life he’ll never take for granted. So much so, that he almost quit hockey after the health scare with Evelyn last season. Pietrangelo wasn’t going to return until he was 100% sure Evelyn would be fine once she got out of the hospital.
Pietrangelo came back after a nine-game absence in December 2022 once Evelyn was showing signs of improvement from a brain condition called encephalitis, and the rest is history. He was an important reason why the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup and why Pietrangelo got to hoist it a second time this past June.
“Personally, having my family on the ice is a very special thing,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s been a crazy year for me in my life, especially with everything that went on last year. I’m pretty blessed to have a pretty special family.”
In terms of the game, the Golden Knights (31-16-6) lost for the first time in three games since coming back from the All-Star break, but it was just their third loss in the last 10 games. Stone, Jonathan Marchessault and Michael Amadio scored, and Adin Hill made 24 saves in his first loss in six starts. It was the first time Hill gave up three goals or more in a game since allowing five on Nov. 16 in Montreal.
It was a 2-2 game heading into the third period following 40 minutes where the Golden Knights played well enough to win. The Golden Knights were called for three consecutive penalties in the first period that resulted in an extended 5-on-3 for the Wild. Mats Zuccarello scored, then Joel Eriksson Ek scored as the long power play expired to take a 2-1 lead midway through the first.
Amadio scored on the power play at 17:45 of the first to make it 2-2, but that was the only power-play goal the Golden Knights could muster in five opportunities. Minnesota scored twice in 1:01 with goals from Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy in the third to make it 4-2.
Cassidy said falling behind was an eventual result due to puck management, something that he thought was a struggle all night. Despite a strong start through the first five minutes, he said, not everyone had their legs and that led to the careless puck possession..
“I think when we get into trouble, that’s where things unravel for us,” Cassidy said.
The Golden Knights get four days off before playing the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. It won’t be seen as an ideal time off given they let one get away in the third.
But it might buy some extra time for Pietrangelo to reflect on a night that started off strong. He’s played in almost 80% of the games he would’ve been eligible to play in throughout his 16-year NHL career with no signs of slowing down. His durability while playing all three phases of the game is what makes him a valuable piece to the Golden Knights’ puzzle.
He’ll at least go home to his family tonight. Win or loss, that’s the best thing for him.
“I think the timing was good for us,” Pietrangelo said, who will have a lot of time to celebrate with friends and family coming up. “I haven’t had everyone together since our wedding. These opportunities, you really try and take it all in and enjoy the time with each other.”