DENVER – Brad Richards scored the winning goal with a minute remaining and the Detroit Red Wings beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-3 at Coors Field on Saturday night in the NHL's warmest regular-season outdoor game.
Richards, playing in his fifth NHL outdoor game, tipped a shot over the shoulder of Semyon Varlamov. Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader also scored for the Red Wings. Darren Helm added an empty-netter to seal the win.
Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Barrie and Alex Tanguay had goals for the Avalanche in the first NHL outdoor game in Colorado.
The feelings between these two heated rivals hasn't melted all that much over the years. Neither did the ice despite the temperature being an unseasonably balmy 65 degrees at puck drop. The warmest game-time temperature before Saturday in an NHL regular-season outdoor game was 62 degrees on Jan. 25, 2014, when Los Angeles hosted Anaheim at Dodger Stadium.
Still, the "snow" swirled all around — a fake, cotton-like substance surrounding the rink that the whipping wind kept blowing into the air in front of a capacity crowd of 50,095.
After Richards' goal, Colorado pulled Varlamov for the final minute. But the Avs couldn't get anything past Petr Mrazek.
Abdelkader gave the Red Wings a 3-2 lead with 6:32 remaining after Nyquist tied the game earlier in the period. Just 14 seconds later, though, Tanguay knotted the game on a rebound. It was Tanguay's first goal since Jan. 20.
Due to the wind, there was a hard whistle with 10 minutes left so the teams could change ends.
The league staged quite a show at the home of baseball's Colorado Rockies, complete with fake snow that stretched all the way to the outfield wall. Good thing, too, because the real stuff would've melted. There also was a backdrop that included faux mountains near a stage where Andy Grammer performed his hit song "Keep Your Head Up" — solid advice for a hockey player.
Matt Duchene donned eye black just like a baseball player might. Fitting, since one goal was situated near third base and the other close to where first base would be located.
The wind intensified in the second period and blew the cottony substance all over as workers scrambled to keep it from blowing onto the ice.
Blake Comeau had quite a save in a scoreless second period, sliding in with his stick to bat the puck away after it trickled past Varlamov. Gabriel Landeskog had the best scoring chance of the period, clanging a shot off the crossbar during a 2-on-1, short-handed break.
After Tatar's goal at 5:07 of the opening period, Colorado answered with two of its own, one by MacKinnon and another from Barrie that withstood a Detroit challenge. The Red Wings argued that Carl Soderberg interfered with Mrazek as the goaltender tried to stop Barrie's shot and challenged the play. It appeared that Mrazek's skate bumped into Soderberg, but after a review the officials upheld the call of a goal.
Colorado later withstood a double-minor penalty on Cody McLeod for high-sticking.
In this rivalry's heyday, it was one of the best around and one of the most bitter. The Red Wings and Avalanche met six times in the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the winner of the series going on to hoist the Cup four times.
The festivities began Friday with an alumni game. Led by Hall of Fame goaltender-turned-coach Patrick Roy, the Avalanche beat Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings 5-2.
On Saturday, Roy returned to his coaching spot — no thoughts of a comeback — and wearing an Avalanche letterman's jacket.
NOTES: D Jonathan Ericsson was back after missing the last six games with a lower-body injury. ... The Avs became the 21st team to play in a regular-season outdoor game. ... It took 20,000 gallons of water to create the ice surface. Some of the water was brought in from the Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado. ... Duchene will auction off the skates he used in the game for charity.