The Buffalo Sabres started their two game road trip after their bye week against the Colorado Avalanche. The rust was visible as the Sabres only generated one shot within the first five minutes of the first period.
The Avalanche struck first with a goal from Gabriel Landeskog off of a deflection from a Mark Barberio shot for his 12th of the year. Justin Bailey and Mark Barberio got a little too physical in from of the Colorado net in which both players received cross checking calls to bring a 4 on 4 that the Avalanche were able to capitalize on. Former Sabre Mikhail Grigorenko snapped a five game pointless streak by ripping a shot above Robin Lehner’s right shoulder.
Dmitry Kulikov was on Grigorenko and didn’t press too hard which allowed Grigorenko to bring the puck from behind the Sabres net and get into a great shooting lane almost without issue. A minute and a half later, Tyson Barrie brought the game to 3-0 via one timer feed from Mikko Rantanen.
Rantanen appeared to finish his check on Justin Bailey with a leading elbow that caught Bailey in the head. With Rantanen in the box, it only took six seconds for the Sabres to get on the board. Sam Reinhart got his 14th goal courtesy of Ristolainen and an Eichel rebound. Ristolainen got his 33rd assist of the year, which tops his total through 82 games last season. This was Sam’s first game back from the flu that kept him out of the past 2 games, and the goal extended Reinhart’s points accumulation to 8 points in 9 games.
Lehner was hit or run into 4 times with one being called for an interference penalty on Tyson Barrie. Unfortunately, the Sabres couldn’t capitalize on the power play, but 39 seconds after the penalty expired, Zemgus Girgensons made a beautiful drive to the net and the rebound was kicked around until Marcus Foligno buried the loose puck, out manhandling McKinnon in front of the net to cut the Avalanche lead to one.
Blake Comeau netted Landeskog’s rebound to put the Avalanche back up by two, beating Lehner glove side. With 2:20 left, Evan Rodrigues responded and ripped a shot from the point that beat Jeremy Smith’s glove to bring the Sabres within 1, again.
An mostly uneventful third period yielded back to back power plays for the Avalanche that the Sabres were able to successfully kill. With time running out, Lehner headed to the bench giving the Sabres an extra man in hopes to tie the game at 4. A lot of puck movement resulted in a low amount of shots. However the biggest issue came with a terrible non call when Jack Eichel was tripped in the corner in front of the ref. That non call resulted in an empty net goal by Landeskog moments later after a giveaway by Eichel.
The frustrations continue to mount for the players as they can’t seem to get over the hump and consistently play 60 full minutes of hockey. “It’s up to us to bear down, opportunities were definitely there, you see the comeback happening, but it’s tough” said Sam Reinhart after the game.
The Sabres head to Phoenix tomorrow to wrap up the road trip against the Arizona Coyotes, hoping to get a least 2 points coming out of the bye week. After the bye week the Sabres have dropped to being 6 points out of a wildcard spot. If Buffalo wants to extend their season into April, they’ll need to pile up as many wins as possible. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.