On a lakeside rink in front of a golden Lake Tahoe sunset, it might have been the most aesthetically pleasing Bruins game in history.
No one looked better than David Pastrnak.
He and his teammates arrived at the outdoor game against the Flyers wearing neon ’90s garb, a nod to the night’s throwback uniforms (circa 1990) and the setting (ski vacation paradise). Pastrnak, who took pregame warmups and did his postgame interview while wearing hot pink wraparound shades, was electric all night.
He scored a hat trick, and was one of 12 different Bruins to record a point, in a 7-3 win over the Flyers on a rink set up on the 18th hole at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort.
The sun dipping below the mountains, Pastrnak scored on his opening shifts of the first and second periods, then completed the trick under a darkened sky by one-timing a slick third-period feed from Jack Studnicka.
“We enjoyed every second of it,” he said afterward. “Too bad we have to leave.”
Pastrnak has scored six of his nine goals this season against the Flyers, including two hat tricks, and now stands 6-2—8 in three games against his new East Division rivals. The Bruins were far too much for the shorthanded Flyers, who were missing six regulars, including captain Claude Giroux, because of COVID protocols.
Some slump-buster, this. In snapping a two-game losing streak, Boston (11-3-2) limited Philadelphia to eight shots over the final two periods. Starting netminder Carter Hart was done after two periods, and six goals on 23 shots. Young Bruins Trent Frederic (first NHL goal) and Urho Vaakanainen (first point, an assist) had nights to remember. Charlie Coyle scored his first goal in nearly a month.
It was memorable for many reasons, including the fact they rolled up to the event looking like ski vacationers from 30 years ago, a team-wide bonding exercise similar to the “Peaky Blinders” look they sported at their last outdoor game (2019 Winter Classic).
“We’re just trying to have fun. We turned to each other when we were walking in and said, ‘We’d better win,’” said defenseman John Moore, who wore a jumpsuit emblazoned with pink, purple, black, and green shapes. “You wouldn’t want to be walking out of here dressed like this ...”
Coach Bruce Cassidy, in a Bruins varsity jacket and a scally cap gifted to him by retired NBC broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick, got a laugh out of it.
“Looked like they dug through my old wardrobe,” he cracked.
Pastrnak looked like the terror Philadelphia saw on Feb. 3 (hat trick, assist). Three goals in 99 seconds in the middle period — from Coyle, Frederic, and Nick Ritchie — made it a laugher.
Hart, replaced by veteran Brian Elliott after 40 minutes, has allowed 20 goals on 127 shots (.843 save percentage) to the Bruins this season.
The first of Sunday’s came on the opening shift, as the Bruins were skating northwest, the sun setting near the right-hand side of the offensive zone. Brad Marchand had the sun in his eyes, and Hart overplaying him. Pastrnak knew the pass was coming, and he buried the cross-ice feed.
“Marchy told me he couldn’t see the net,” Pastrnak said. “He was like, ‘I was passing the whole time.’”
The Flyers went up, 2-1, on first-period goals from ex-Boston University winger Joel Farabee and Sean Couturier. But Tuukka Rask (16 saves on 19 shots) was not asked to handle much more, and his mates piled up the goals higher than the Sierra Nevadas.
Right after the sun slipped below the mountains late in the first, Charlie McAvoy stepped into a Marchand feed and hammered a one-timer underneath Hart’s arm to tie the score. Pastrnak was at it again, 46 seconds into the middle period. He snapped a rolling puck underneath the crossbar, following a smart Ritchie entry and a long outlet from Vaakanainen. The shot was spectacular, a quick-release laser that picked the near-side corner.
The flurry late in the second: Coyle scored off a rush to the net (16:14), Frederic whipped home his first career goal from above the circle (16:47) — “a pinch-yourself moment,” he said — and Ritchie tipped a power-play point shot from Moore (17:53).
Moore was one of five Bruins defensemen to play more than 21 minutes, after Jeremy Lauzon left after Pastrnak’s opening-shift goal with an upper body injury. Cassidy did not have an update after the game. Against the shorthanded Flyers, the organization’s seventh (Connor Clifton), eighth (Moore), and 10th (Vaakanainen) blue liners held up quite well.
“We’ll see where we are when we get home, health-wise,” Cassidy said. “All three of our left D are out, the ones we started with. We started the year with a younger group, and now we’ve lost all of them. Good for the guys for stepping up.”
Puck drop arrived at 4:59 p.m. PT, which in retrospect was ideal. It was difficult to track the puck on TV during the first period, but the glare made for some dramatic images. After the sun faded into the mountains, the dark sky and the white ice were a brilliant match (and made the game an easier watch).
The lasting image for Cassidy: he was walking out after the first period, in a 2-2 game, and taking mental pictures.
“The sun had been settled,” he said. “It was truly like a nighttime outdoor, like when you were a kid playing outside on the pond. That’s what it felt like. The trees, walking to the bench you could see the lake, a few boats back there. Very pristine surroundings.”