Finish to Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche Lake Tahoe showdown worth the wait

Nathan MacKinnon #29 of the Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Nathan MacKinnon #29 of the Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

We had to wait a long time to see the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche finish matters, but it was well worth it.

After the longest first intermission break in the history of the National Hockey League, over eight hours to be precise, we finally got to witness the final two periods of the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors Saturday between the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights, and it was pretty special under the lights at the stunning Lake Tahoe.

It was a great start to the weekend festivities as defenseman Samuel Girard gave the Avs an early lead in the first period but, with the sun shining a lot brighter than originally forecasted, that caused chaos with the ice and after ruts formed that caused players and officials to lose their edges and fall over, the decision was made to postpone the game until later in the evening.

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There was then concern over the state of the lighting given that the game wasn’t going to be resumed until midnight eastern time, but those fears were quickly allayed as the NHL managed to light the rink up pretty good and, while the breathtaking backdrop of Lake Tahoe did look better in the day, late night hockey under the lights outdoors still looked pretty incredible.

You have to give credit to the league for adapting quickly and still putting on a show even if they had to deviate away from the plan, and the fact that they managed to pull this off should mean that we get an uninterrupted game between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers later today, with faceoff pushed back to 7:30 p.m. ET so that the sun doesn’t cause chaos for the second day in a row.

Cale Makar (8)
Cale Makar #8 of the Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

We had to wait but Vegas Golden Knights – Colorado Avalanche Lake Tahoe showdown well worth it

Anyway, back to last night’s game and, after all the drama and all the disruption, we finally got to see two heavyweights in the NHL and in the West Division slug it out for the final two periods. And, guess what, it was well worth waiting those extra hours for the resumption of play.

Go back to the first period, when there was sunlight, and it did look as though it was the Colorado Avalanche who had better adapted to the outdoor elements, dominating the Vegas Golden Knights and outshooting them 17-8 in the first period, with Samuel Girard scoring at 2:58 to give his team their just rewards.

And, after both teams had to mix up their routine and prepare for a night game during the afternoon, it was once again the Avalanche who looked better prepared and, quite frankly, more ready to play than the Golden Knights did. I mean, the ice looked fantastic in the evening and the Avs just did a better job of being ready to play and adjusting on the fly.

Like the previous two regular-season games before Saturday’s marquee event at Lake Tahoe, the Avalanche had also looked a class above the Golden Knights, losing in a 1-0 shutout due to the brilliance of Marc-Andre Fleury and then taking the second game 3-2 on Tuesday, without Captain Gabriel Landeskog by the way.

Well, Landeskog was back in the lineup for yesterday’s game and, as was the case in the previous two encounters, Fleury had to stand on his head and play at an elite level and he made a flurry of fine stops with Colorado on the power play early in the second period.

Fleury stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced and the game could and would have been out of sight if it wasn’t for his heroic efforts in what was his sixth straight start, while defenseman Alec Martinez did make it a tied game at 7:37 in the second period after burying a rebound.

However, as we’ve already stated, this was one heck of a performance by the Avalanche who were perhaps reminding people why they should be considered the top dogs in the West and the big favorites for the Stanley Cup, and they certainly played like an elite contender.

Nathan MacKinnon, who was just sensational with three points (1 G, 2 A) on the night, turned it on and when he’s in full flow there is no stopping the elite center. I mean, just look at this goal in the middle frame where he took the puck in his own end on a four-on-four and travelled the whole length of the ice at insane speed, gliding past Mark Stone and Alex Pietrangelo with ease before ripping the puck past Fleury.

It was just pure MacKinnon magic.

MacKinnon also tallied a secondary helper on Devon Toews‘ goal at 13:11 in the third period and, while Alex Tuch did score a beautiful spin-o-rama goal to make it a one-goal game, in truth this contest was never that close and that was reflected in the eye test given just how damn good the Colorado Avalanche were and also by the fact that they outshot the Vegas Golden Knights 39-29.

And, can we please take a moment to pay tribute to those absolutely stunning and beautiful Colorado Avalanche Reverse Retro jerseys that paid homage to the Quebec Nordiques please?! I mean, god damn, they looked incredible out on the ice in an outdoor setting and they somehow looked even better under the lights. I wouldn’t be mad at all if the Avs decided to make these uniforms a regular fixture in the rotation.

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Overall, though, the first NHL Outdoors Game at Lake Tahoe was just a lot of fun despite the weather problems and the league deserves a lot of credit for trying something new. There were problems but they overcame them and the lessons learned should ensure that today’s second game between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers goes smoothly. But, while it took a long time, we eventually got a memorable first game with insane play, beautiful goals, great goaltending and just a brilliant matchup between two juggernauts that should go far in the postseason.

Bring on tonight’s game.