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Avalanche beat Golden Knights in unforgettable outdoor game at Lake Tahoe

Nathan MacKinnon whips up a superstar performance under unusual circumstances to lead the Avalanche to a 3-2 victory over the Golden Knights at Lake Tahoe.

Outdoor hockey with a Lake Tahoe backdrop so beautiful, you almost swear special effects must have been involved. Two goals nine hours apart. Saturday’s (and you might also say, Sunday’s) Golden Knights - Avalanche outdoor game at Lake Tahoe offered up a ton of things.

Some of those things, like an amazing Nathan MacKinnon highlight, we might have expected. In other cases, there were events few could have seen coming.

But, considering the challenges involved, it’s remarkable that we got a winner. (You know, beyond whoever handles tourism in Lake Tahoe.) The Avalanche ended up beating the Golden Knights 3-2 to win their outdoor game at Lake Tahoe.

Sign there was a lot to take in: the Avalanche’s gorgeous Nordique-themed retro uniforms ended up being an afterthought. Quite the afternoon entire day of hockey, folks.

Breathe in the NHL outdoor game scene at Lake Tahoe

The scenery really deserves its own section. Maybe its own documentary?

Let’s take a few moments just to enjoy the mixture of how beautiful everything looked when Lake Tahoe provided the Avalanche and Golden Knights with a bit too much sunlight:

NHL Outdoors At Lake Tahoe - Vegas Golden Knights v Colorado Avalanche

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Getty Images

Actually, one photo doesn’t feel like enough for the afternoon glory of Lake Tahoe plus NHL outdoor hockey. Let’s sample another.

NHL Outdoors At Lake Tahoe - Vegas Golden Knights v Colorado Avalanche

STATELINE, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 20: Goaltender Philipp Grubauer #31 of the Colorado Avalanche makes a save on a shot from Nicolas Roy #10 and William Carrier #28 of the Vegas Golden Knights during the first period of the ‘NHL Outdoors At Lake Tahoe’ at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort on February 20, 2021 in Stateline, Nevada. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Are you muttering “Again” like Herb Brooks? Fair enough:

While the sunny first period provided the best material if you wanted to put together a hockey calendar, the scene was extremely cool even when it shifted to midnight ET. There was something cozy and almost intimate about the shadows, and the hockey sounds you could soak in without a crowd.

Oh yeah, the hockey

Maybe most importantly, the ice conditions were vastly improved. This opened up a canvas for Nathan MacKinnon to paint this masterpiece:

Just tremendous. A mic’d up Alex Pietrangelo admitted that there’s only so much you can do to stop Nathan MacKinnon in that situation.

Ultimately, MacKinnon ended up with three points (1G, 2A), keeping pace on a great night for top NHL superstars.

For significant chunks of the Avalanche - Golden Knights outdoor game at Lake Tahoe, the Avs carried play. That was especially true before the longest “first intermission” we’ve seen.

At times, especially when players like MacKinnon had the puck, it felt like the second and third periods could’ve been happening under climate-controlled conditions. A lot of that comes down to how talented these two teams are.

But there are limitations that come with playing outdoors. Could you chalk up some missed opportunities (both teams failed on strong 5-on-3 power play chances) to circumstances? Maybe. That said, it’s easy to see why the Avalanche and Golden Knights rank among NHL favorites, including what was on display at Lake Tahoe.

And give the goalies some credit. In particular, it’s impressive that Marc-Andre Fleury held down the fort in the hectic first period, making 17 out of 18 saves during the opening 20 minutes alone. Fleury was sharp, but it wasn’t enough.

Avs win a game that picked up late

Samuel Girard ended up scoring the only goal of the first period, which felt like the “first game.” After play resumed, Alec Martinez pounced on a loose puck to make it 1-1.

Then the Nathan MacKinnon goal happened.

For much of the third period, the Avalanche used their speed to stay a step ahead of the Golden Knights. A Devon Toews goal made it 3-1, but then the Golden Knights really started to push. Thanks to a power move by Alex Tuch, the Golden Knights brought it to 3-2. Vegas couldn’t get any more than that, though, so Colorado beat its (short-term?) division rivals.

All things considered, the Golden Knights, Avalanche, Lake Tahoe, and that Nevada sun combined for a memorable moment in NHL outdoor games. For fans who want more, the Bruins and Flyers will face off in their own NHL outdoor game at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Bruins-Flyers stream pre-game coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

NBC Sports will premiere Doc Emrick – The Voice of Hockey, Presented by Discover – detailing the illustrious career of U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member and eight-time Sports Emmy Award winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick – on Sunday, February 21 at 5 p.m. ET on NBC.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.