Yesterday, or today, depending on your geographical location, the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche went head-to-head at Lake Tahoe. The game was designed by the National Hockey League as a replacement for the Winter Classic and Stadium Series. The NHL found a breathtaking venue and a location that took hockey back to its roots.
The game was set for a 3 pm ET puck drop. All COVID protocols were still in place, with players and staff wearing masks when required, and no fans were in attendance. But with that came the ability for everyone at home to hear the game in ways most never would. Lead anchor Mike Tirico to begin the game said the commentators would sometimes leave gaps of silence so people at home could hear the game’s sounds.
After one period of play, the Avalanche led the Golden Knights 1-0 off of a Samuel Girard goal. The puck skipped across the ice and beat Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s five-hole. The teams would head to the locker room to get ready for the second period. However, Mother Nature would have other plans. The weather that day at Lake Tahoe was picture perfect. Sunny day, roughly 30 degrees air temperature. The sun, however, would be troublesome for the ice.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with other league officials, team officials, and referees Wes McCauley and Kelly Sutherland to discuss the current ice conditions. Throughout the first period, refs and players alike had complained about rivets in the ice caused by the sun. Due to player safety concerns, the league decided to move the game to a later time.
Over the next 7 hours, except for the ice crew, Lake Tahoe would go dark. Fun fact for everyone, had the game been delayed after 40 minutes (or 2 periods of play), if one of the teams were leading, the game by rule would have been called and been over. Thankfully, that did not happen. All players and coaches would head back to their rooms for the longest first intermission of their professional careers.
The game would resume at noon ET, with the second period finally getting underway. The ice conditions were much better, and the sun was no longer a factor. At 7:37, Alec Martinez would tie up the game with his first goal of the season. But the tie would be broken less than four minutes later by Nathan MacKinnon. Using his well-known speed, MacKinnon flew down the ice, going coast to coast to then fire a bullet top shelf on Fleury.
Entering the third and final period, the Avalanche still held a one goal lead. The majority of the period was filled with physical plays a plenty. Devon Toews would put an end to the goalless drought and burry his fourth of the year to give the Avalanche a 2 goal lead. The Golden Knights needed a spark and were slowly running out of time. They would get a glimmer of hope at the 14:25 mark from Alex Tuch. Making a beautiful move out of the corner, Tuch drove to the net, pulled a 360 spin and slammed it home against Philipp Grubauer.
Down 1 with only minutes left, the Golden Knights would try their best but would eventually fall short as the Avalanche would reign supreme at Lake Tahoe. Final score, 3-2. Grubauer and the Avalanche remain red hot, winning their sixth game in the last eight, two wins back-to-back against the Golden Knights. The teams will meet again on Monday night in Denver.
Although things may not have gone as planned, Lake Tahoe proved to be a perfect backdrop. The Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins will take their turn later today at Lake Tahoe, and hopefully, the weather will be a bit more cooperative.