The teams dropped the puck just after noon local time at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. The Avs opened a 1-0 lead in the first period on a shot from Samuel Girard, and completely controlled the play. Despite penalty trouble and virtually zero offensive pressure from the Golden Knights in the period, the score remained 1-0 heading into the first intermission. Marc-Andre Fleury was the sole reason this game did not get out of hand in the first period.
“Our first period was one of our worst periods of the season so far,” Alex Tuch said. “It wasn’t the type of game we wanted to play, especially on the outdoor rink.”
The game was postponed due to unsafe ice conditions during the first intermission. Despite the weather being around 34 degrees, the mountain sun kept beating down on the ice and melting it. Commissioner Gary Bettmen and the League made the ruling to postpone the game until 9 p.m. local time. It took eight hours for play to resume between the two teams.
“They did the best they could,” Alec Martinez said. “The sun was beating down on [the ice] a little too much and it was melting the ice. We don’t want anyone getting hurt and if there are chunks out of the ice all the way down to the cement, it creates a difficult and dangerous playing environment.”
When the second period finally resumed after an eight hour intermission, it was much of the same. The Avalanche continued to control play and generate high danger scoring chances. The Golden Knights finally picked it up after about seven minutes of play. Alec Martinez scored his first goal of the season after putting home a rebound from a shot by Alex Pietrangelo. Just under four minutes later though, Nathan MacKinnon scored to restore the Avalanche’s lead.
In the third period, the VGK found themselves on a five-on-three powerplay, but failed to generate a shot on net. On both their five-on-three powerplay and with the extra attacker on the ice late in the game, there seemed to be a lack of urgency. The players involved in both sequences just seemed to stand around and wait for someone to make a play.
“That's an opportunity for us to jump back into the game.” Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer said. “When you're playing a team like Colorado, you only get so many of those types of situations, and you have to make hay. If you’re going to beat a team like that, you have to execute in those moments.”
Devon Toews scored late in the third period to give the Avs a 3-1 lead. 74 second later, Alex Tuch scored a beautiful goal on a spinning shot to cut the lead to one. The Knights were unable to find the equalizer, falling 3-2 to the Avalanche.
The Golden Knights are developing some concerning trends. They don't seem to start games “on time” and are having a problem generating scoring chances. When they fail to start games off on a good foot, they put too much on their goaltenders shoulders to keep them in the game. Right now Fleury is playing well enough to do that, but it is a bad habit to get into. This is also causing them to have issues scoring. Since their shutout loss against the Anaheim Ducks, they have scored eight goals in four games. With the exception of scoring and finishing, the other problems fall down to discipline and coaching. They can and will be fixed. Their top six forwards are talented enough to get themselves out of this slump they are in as well.
One problem that is not an easy fix is their fourth line. At best this year, they have been completely abysmal. At worst, they have been a complete and utter liability. Their calling card has been physicality, but teams are not playing into it. They cannot exit their own zone cleanly and are not generating any offense, something they did very well during last year's playoffs. On the first goal of the game, the fourth line was on the ice. All three forwards were caught below the goal line leading to a four-on-two rush up the ice for the Avalanche. Seemingly to no one’s surprise, that puck ended up in the back of the net. It does not help that they were playing against one of the best first lines in all of hockey either, but this is an issue that has been happening all year.
At this point the only way to fix the fourth line issue would be to trade for some depth pieces before the deadline. They could also try to use some of their young players, but that would require putting guys like Ryan Reaves, William Carrier, and Tomas Nosek on waivers. All three of those guys would likely be claimed and Vegas would lose them for nothing, making this move highly unlikely.
The Golden Knights play the Avs in Colorado on Feb. 22. They currently sit just two points ahead of Colorado in the standings. While this is not technically a must win situation, dropping three of four to the same team is not a good idea.