The Avalanche continued their winless East-coast road trip with a visit to Buffalo, New York to take on the Sabres. In a matchup defined by the 2015 blockbuster which sent Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo in exchange for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, and a package of futures, it was Jack Eichel and a collective effort from the playoff hopeful Sabres that stole the show.
Sitting 5 points out of an Wild Card spot, the Buffalo Sabres came into the game hungry for two critical points in a congested Eastern Conference playoff race. Despite playing some decent hockey in the early periods against the NHL’s tri-state teams throughout the past week, the Avalanche folded under the Sabres’ heavy forecheck in the first 40 minutes. On the back of some key saves by Calvin Pickard and some timely saves from the goal posts, the two teams finished the first period tied at zero.
After a scoreless first period, the Sabres would score the eventual game winner just 48 seconds into the second period, on a carry-over power play from the end of the first period. On the power play Ryan O’Reilly fed Rasmus Ristolainen for a one-timer from the point. Calvin Pickard was able to make the first save on the attempt, but Sam Reinhart easily buried the rebound from his uncontested position in the slot. Following the opening goal, Buffalo consistently dictated the pace of the game, with the red hot Jack Eichel making an impact almost every shift. By the end of the second period the Avalanche trailed 21-11 in shots on goal and were fortunate to trail by only a single goal.
As the Sabres settled in to protect their lead in the third period, Colorado was able to stop some of the bleeding defensively, however, they were not able to generate the kind of offense to test Robin Lehner in net. Late in the third period, successive miscues from Blake Comeau, Mark Barberio, and Francois Beauchemin gave Evander Kane a clear lane to the net and a highlight reel goal. The Avalanche pulled their goalie in the final minutes but could not get on the board
1. Ryan O’Reilly – 1 assist, 22:01 TOI
2. Evander Kane – 1 goal, 4 SOG
3. Robin Lehner – 23 save shutout
PLAY OF THE GAME
Bad defending always makes offense look better. To that effect, Mark Barberio and Francois Beauchemin made Evander Kane look like a superstar dancing through the zone on the Sabres’ 2nd goal of the night.
The Avalanche were chasing the game from the opening faceoff and never managed to turn the tide in a performance that reeked of futility.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Avalanche look for their first win on this five-game road trip in Carolina when they take on the Hurricanes Friday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. MT.