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It was memorable day/night in Lake Tahoe outdoor game

February 21, 2021, 5:42 PM ET [2 Comments]
Rick Sadowski
Colorado Avalanche Blogger •Avalanche Insider • RSSArchiveCONTACT
It took a lot longer than anyone expected, but the Avalanche managed a 3-2 win against the Vegas Golden Knights in what turned out to be a day/night doubleheader of sorts Saturday in the NHL Outdoors Game.

Baseball games are often delayed because of rain. Saturday’s game was delayed because of sunshine.

The heat generated by the sun at altitude -- 6,224 feet above sea level in this case -- was just too much for the ice on a rink built on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort on the southern shore of Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nevada.

Here's the NHL.com GAME RECAP.

The scenery was stunning with trees, the lake and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountain range in the background on a beautiful sun-splashed day.

Unfortunately, the ice was deteriorating throughout the first period in which the Avalanche, looking sharp in their Reverse Retro uniforms, took a 1-0 lead on a Samuel Girard goal.

After about a 70-minute delay following the period to determine how to handle the rest of the game, commissioner Gary Bettman announced the decision to resume play in the evening for safety reasons.

The first period ended at 1:55 p.m. MT and the game resumed at 10:03 p.m. MT after the players went back to their hotel to eat and relax.

The ice crew, meanwhile, covered the surface until the sun went down and did the necessary repair work to ensure the ice would be safe and playable.

Playing under lights that already had been installed, the Avalanche got a second-period goal from Nathan MacKinnon and one in the third by Devon Toews. Philipp Grubauer finished with 27 saves.

"The setting was incredible, it was a beautiful day here, almost too nice I guess because we get delayed, but the evening was fun too,” coach Jared Bednar said. “Playing under lights was a great situation.”

Picking up two points in regulation made it even nicer.

"I think it was great,” said Mikko Rantanen, who had two assists. “At the start with the daylight, you could see the view and all of that; it looked really cool in person and also in the pictures and what I saw on TV. It was a great scene for this game and obviously probably the last two periods were better hockey for the fans too. The ice was a lot better and guys were not falling over all the time, and guys were able to handle the puck. So, a little bit better hockey the last two periods, but overall a great day and great experience."

Aside from his goal, MacKinnon had two assists, giving him 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in 13 games.

"It feels like a blur, honestly," MacKinnon told NBCSN. "The ice was bad, but we never thought of stopping. I didn't realize that was a possibility. I thought we were just going to grind it out and head home. I don't know, just muck it up.

"This was definitely more enjoyable the second and third tonight. It sucks the lake and mountains weren't in the background, but it's just so sunny at altitude. It's like that in Denver too. When it's hot it's tough. We got it done."

The Avalanche (9-4-1) have won two straight games against the Golden Knights after dropping a 1-0 decision in the opener of this four-game mini-series. They’ll also wear the Reverse Retro uniforms, which pay homage to the Quebec Nordiques, in the series finale Monday at Ball Arena.

"It was a huge two points, now we still got one more in the series,” Bednar said.

Though things didn’t work out exactly as planned, the experience was one none of the participants will soon forget.

“It was amazing,” Gabriel Landeskog said. “I think it's a memory of a lifetime. Finally we broke the curse of these outdoor games and we were able to win one, so it makes it a lot more special."

The Avalanche lost to Detroit 5-3 at Coors Field in Denver on Feb. 27, 2016, and 3-1 to Los Angeles at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium on Feb. 15, 2020.

Five players returned after missing games due to COVID-19 protocols or injuries.

Landeskog, Girard and Tyson Jost missed the two previous games after being added to the protocol list.

Matt Calvert played after sitting out seven games with an upper-body injury while Cale Makar had been out for two games with an upper-body injury.

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