STATELINE, Nev. – Nathan MacKinnon scored a dazzling goal more than nine hours after assisting on another to highlight a most unusual and lengthy outdoor game at Lake Tahoe that the Colorado Avalanche won 3-2 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.
The game started in bright sunshine that led to a delay of more than eight hours following the first period because of poor ice conditions and ended in the dark 10 hours, 37 minutes later.
The Avalanche were the better team during both parts of the game and got the victory thanks in large part to MacKinnon, who assisted on Samuel Girard’s first-period goal and scored his own in the second.
MacKinnon’s highlight-reel play started with a back check that forced a turnover by Mark Stone in Colorado’s zone. MacKinnon then took possession and rushed up ice, eluding Stone in the neutral zone and then taking on Alex Pietrangelo before beating Marc-Andre Fleury for the goal that gave Colorado a 2-1 lead.
The Avalanche killed 1:22 of a two-man advantage in the third period and held on for the win thanks to 27 saves from Philipp Grubauer and an insurance goal from Devon Toews that MacKinnon also assisted.
With the COVID-19 pandemic preventing the NHL from staging its typical outdoor games at a jam-packed football or baseball stadium, the league took the opportunity find a more unique venue outside a stadium that took players back to their childhood playing on frozen ponds or makeshift backyard rinks.
Although it’s fair to say that none of those had the picturesque setting of this rink located on the 18th fairway of a golf course on the shores of Lake Tahoe and surrounded by trees with snow-covered mountains towering in the background.
While the setting was perfect, the conditions weren’t quite the same with the bright sun creating slushy ice that led to several falls by players and officials. That led to the decision to halt the game after the first period and wait until the sun went down and the ice surface could be repaired to finish the game following the delay of more 8 hours, 7 minutes.
“We’ve done over 30 (outdoor) games and we’ve never had a problem quite like this,” Commissioner Gary Bettman told broadcaster NBC. “We’ve played in some rain, we’ve played in snow, but sunshine has always been our enemy.”
The delay was made easier because the only fans at the game were the few on kayaks and boats in Lake Tahoe with an obstructed view of the ice.
When the game resumed at 9:02 p.m. the Avs were on a power play that carried over from the afternoon and had a stretch with 15 straight shots that ended when Alec Martinez knocked a rebound of Pietrangelo’s shot to tie the score at 1.
Alex Tuch added a spinning goal with 5:35 to go to cut Colorado's lead to 3-2.
Fleury made 36 saves for Vegas and fell to 0-3 in three career outdoor game starts.
The Avs controlled the play under the sun, getting an early goal from Girard and outshooting Vegas 17-8 in the first 20 minutes. Colorado couldn’t convert on a two-man advantage in the final 80 seconds of the opening period with Fleury robbing Mikko Rantanen late to keep the game at 1-0.
The Avalanche debuted their reverse retro jerseys as part of their 25th anniversary season in Denver. The jersey is based on the uniform the organization wore during its time in Quebec City as the Nordiques.
The teams finish their four-game series that began with two games in Las Vegas with a meeting Monday night in Colorado.
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