The temperature in Lake Tahoe dipped into the 30s after the sun set behind the Sierra Mountains on Sunday, but it didn’t cool off Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak.
The superstar right wing, who fought off the sun glare of the first period to score the first goal of the game 34 seconds in, scored in the night-lit second and third periods too to record his second hat trick of the season against the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL Outdoors Sunday game on the 18th hole of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Nevada.
Boston rolled to a 7-3 victory behind Pastrnak’s three goals and 11 other players that recorded at least one point.
In addition to getting expected scoring from the NHL’s hottest goal-scorer — non-Canada edition — the Bruins ended their two-game losing streak while leaning on two of their long-held characteristics that have kept them in Stanley Cup contention the past several years.
First was camaraderie. Taking a page from their 2019 Winter Classic off-ice look of dressing up as “Peaky Blinders” characters, they decided (or captain Patrice Bergeron decided, according to Pastrnak) to dress up in pastel-colored 1990s attire so gaudy the gang from Saved By The Bell would’ve laughed.
After showing up dressed like that, defenseman John Moore said the talk before the game was “we better win.”
Off-ice clothing themes are fun, and that type of togetherness can often translate onto the ice, but in order to get a victory that would help the Bruins look back and laugh rather than cry about Bergeron’s choice, the Bruins had to also flex their resilience. They were down to just five defensemen one shift into the game because Jeremy Lauzon sustained a lower-body injury. And, same as the Flyers, they had to fight through the bright sun that was making it nearly impossible to see both on the ice and on television for the first 20 minutes.
Boston’s gumption showed right off the hop, when Brad Marchand set up Pastrnak for that early goal.
“It was really challenging you know, but it was really fun,” Pastrnak said. “Marchy told me that he didn’t even see the net, so he was like ‘I was passing the whole time because I couldn’t even see where the net is.’ So I was just, for me, I knew it was coming and these off-side one-timers on 2-on-1s are hard for goalies, so I just tried to get it on net.”
The ice was better from the start than it was Saturday, when the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights played a period and then waited 5 ½ hours to play the rest of the game because the “extreme sun” made the conditions unplayable. But between the setting sun and the lively boards, there were still plenty of things for the Bruins and Flyers to worry about other than each other.
The Flyers might’ve wished the game had been played at its originally scheduled daytime puck drop because of the way the elements evened the playing field. Despite playing without six key regulars, including captain Claude Giroux and high-flying wings Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia managed to get to the first intermission even with Boston at 2-2.
Although his team squandered an early lead and wasn’t able to get back in front of the Flyers before the horn, coach Bruce Cassidy experienced his favorite part of the weekend not long after.
“I think walking out after the first period [was my favorite] because the sun had been settled, and it was truly like a nighttime outdoor [game] like when you were a kid playing outside on the pond,” he said. “That’s what it felt like, the trees, walking to the bench you could see the lake, a few boats back there. Very pristine sort of surroundings, that was my favorite part. It was 2-2 at the time, so it wasn’t like it was because we were dominating or winning or anything like that, it was just the environment, the setting.”
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Of course, Cassidy could look back on that moment more fondly because not long after that walk the Bruins did start to dominate and went on to win. The shorthanded Flyers, meanwhile, looked like kids playing on a pond against a determined Boston squad that simplified the game the way it planned, and got scoring from unlikely sources — like Trent Frederic (first NHL goal) and Charlie Coyle (first goal in 11 games).
When asked about his players playing dress-up before and after the game, Cassidy, 55, said he thought they had raided his wardrobe. But on a somewhat serious note, he pointed out that the COVID-19 restrictions in place this season don’t leave much room for team bonding on the road, so that anything that could help their cohesion was welcome.
The clothes were good for a laugh, but the final score and how the Bruins got there were more important — a victory for the history books and one to build on moving forward.