Tyler Toffoli admitted nerves nearly got the best of him when he got the puck on the rush in the waning seconds of the third period. The Los Angeles Kings forward pushed ahead anyway and completed the first hat trick in an NHL outdoor game. Toffoli scored his second and third goals in the final minute, lifting the Kings to a 3-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche in the 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series game at Falcon Stadium on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy on Saturday. It was the 30th outdoor game in NHL history and played in front of a sellout crowd of 43,574.
Toffoli´s second goal broke a tie with 55 seconds remaining and he scored an empty-net goal with five seconds left for the 3-1 final. Kings center Anze Kopitar had an assist on both goals.
"Just going out there, [Kopitar] on the ice said, ´Just get open and put it into the empty net,´" Toffoli said. "I think that´s the most nervous I´ve ever been putting a puck into an empty net in my life, but it worked."
Jonathan Quick made 32 saves for the Kings (21-33-5), who are last in the Pacific Division but have won two games in a row after losing five straight and eight of nine in regulation. "I said before [the game] we celebrate wins, and we´re excited about that," Kings coach Todd McLellan said.
Samuel Girard scored for the Avalanche (33-18-6), who missed an opportunity to move into first place in the Central Division. Colorado goalie Philipp Grubauer made 14 saves before he sustained a lower-body injury at 2:33 of the third period. Pavel Francouz made six saves in relief. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said the training staff was working on Grubauer after the game and won´t know the severity of his injury until Sunday. "Just a frustrating, frustrating game," Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon said.
Toffoli made it 2-1 at 19:05 of the third after Kopitar won the face-off in the left circle back to him. Toffoli whiffed on his first shot but got the puck back and scored on his second attempt. "Even before [Kopitar] was taking the draw he said, ´I´ll be really happy if you put this in,´ and he was really happy," Toffoli said.
The Kings are 2-1-0 in NHL outdoor games; their first two were in California, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Jan. 25, 2014 (3-0 loss against the Anaheim Ducks), when it was 62 degrees Fahrenheit at puck drop, and at Levi´s Stadium in Santa Clara on Feb. 21, 2015 (2-1 win against the San Jose Sharks), when it was 57 degrees.
It was 32.5 degrees at puck drop Saturday. "The two [California] games, it wasn´t as cold as this one," Kopitar said. "That´s going to stick with me." Quick made 13 saves in the first 10 minutes of the game, allowing Toffoli to give the Kings a 1-0 lead at 14:01. "It would have been nice to see the Kings play from behind; they were pretty passive after they got the lead," MacKinnon said. "I had a couple good looks myself that I wish I would have scored on [in the first period], a couple good rebound looks for guys. It´s just unfortunate."
The Avalanche tied it 1-1 on Girard´s goal at 19:18 of the second period. Colorado had a power-play opportunity at 9:10 of the third period but gave it away 17 seconds later. The Avalanche also gave away a power-play opportunity after three seconds in the first period. "That´s a little frustrating," Bednar said. "We nullified what should be two real good opportunities to take a lead."
-by Dan Rosen for NHL.com-