STATELINE, Nev. – Everyone knew playing an outdoor game on a golf course near Lake Tahoe instead of in a stadium would provide a unique experience.
Few could have imagined how it all turned out with the game starting with breathtaking views in the sunshine, taking an eight-hour break because of bad ice conditions and ending late at night.
Nathan MacKinnon scored a dazzling goal more than nine hours after assisting on another to highlight a most unusual and lengthy outdoor game that the Colorado Avalanche won 3-2 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.
“It was weird. It feels like a blur honestly,” MacKinnon said. “The ice was bad, but we never thought of stopping. I never thought that was a possibility. I thought we would grind it out. ... This was definitely more enjoyable, the second and third tonight.”
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.
“It was a unique one, and a game that people will remember for a long time,” Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “Maybe not for the hockey game but for everyone falling in the first period this morning. Nonetheless it was a great experience and hope the fans who were able to stay up for this game were able to see how special a place this is.”
Colorado was 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 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 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.