The first period went about as well as it could for the Avalanche, they got the first 11 shots of the period and outshot the Sabres 14-3 in the first twenty. On the first shift of the game Matt Duchene flew into the zone, collected the puck, centered to O'Reilly who shot the puck into Ryan Miller's pads where Steve Downie would crash the net until the Sabres goalie was able to cover. That's pretty much how things would go for the Avs top line tonight as they flew all over the ice and used their speed to create scoring chances. The Avalanche dominated the possession game, out-skating and out-passing the Sabres in the offensive and neutral zones for most of the period. What resulted was a number of long, looooong shifts for the Sabres defense. Eight minutes into the game, Patrick Roy took advantage of a tired Sabres group and put the top line out following a Sabres icing. On the ensuing play, Matt Duchene brought the puck low and burned Steve Ott with a beautiful spin move before passing through the Buffalo defense to a wide open Ryan O'Reilly. O'Reilly easily fired the puck into a gaping net to give the Avs a one goal lead.
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A few minutes later the Avalanche doubled their lead after a fantastic individual effort from Gabriel Landeskog. After collecting the puck in his own zone, Erik Johnson sent a beautiful saucer pass through the neutral zone to spring Landeskog on the rush, Landeskog flew past the Buffalo defense and forced Ryan Miller to bite on a shot before taking the long route to the goal-mouth, skating behind the net and burying the wraparound.
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The Sabres hit their low of the night at 13:30 seconds into the game, when they fired their first shot on J.S. Giguere, a weak snap shot from the point. The Buffalo crowd erupted with sarcastic cheers, tough period for the home team. The rest of the period was all Avalanche, including a long offensive chance to close out the period. The Avalanche drew a penalty in the waning seconds of the period and Jan Hejda had an excellent chance at the buzzer but was stopped by Ryan Miller.
The Avs picked up right where they left off in the second period as Matt Duchene defelcted Ryan O'Reilly's shot on the power play just 56 seconds into the second period to give the As a three goal lead.
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Thats about where the good times end for the Avalanche in this one. 5 minutes into the period Cody Hodgson breathed some life into his Sabres team when he fired a slapshot past J.S. Giguere to put his team on the board. There was really nothing exceptional about the shot, it's one Jiggy definitely wants back
The Avalanche never reestablished their offensive dominance from the first period, but they did respond well enough to reestablish the 3 goal lead. 8 minutes into the period Paul Stastny's line put on a passing clinic in the Sabres zone before sliding a very slow shot past Ryan Miller. The scoreboard read Stastny from Landeskog and Wilson, but it was Alex Tanguay who made an excellent play to give the Avs possession and then set up the goal with a centering pass to Ryan Wilson.
With their three goal lead regained, the Avalanche decided that the Sabres no longer required their full attention and they started to mail this one in. The Sabres outshot the Avalanche 11-8 in the second period and pinned the Avs in their own zone for the majority of the second half. During his intermission interview, Paul Stastny called it a "selfish" period for his team, as everyone wanted to get on the score sheet and started to abandon the system to do so. The lone Avalanche highlight for the end of the second period was a PA Parenteau near-breakaway, but Ryan Miller stood tall.
It almost seemed as though Joe Sacco got a chance to chat with his former team between the second and third periods, because they came out and laid an egg in the third period. Instead of using their speed and pushing the play back into the Sabres zone the Avalanche played a full twenty minutes of "turtle and hold the lead hockey" which was absolutely painful to watch. The trouble started early on, just 1 minute into the period the Avalanche brokedown in their own zone and left Marcus Foligno wide open on the back door. As the puck slid through the crease to Foligno J.S. Giguere attempted a bizarre glove save with the pads "stacked." Lets not try that one again Jiggy.
The Avs best chance of the period came when Ryan O'Reilly left a drop pass for Steve Downie and drove the net. Downie tried to pick the corner and fired a beautiful wrister over Ryan Miller's shoulder, but it pinged off the post. Sadly that would be Downie's last chance of the night. A little over 6 minutes into the game Buffalo's Mike Weber drove Downie into the Buffalo net from behind, then started a fight with the Avs forward before he could crawl all the way out of the net and get back on his feet. After some clutching and grabbing Downie and Weber went to the box for fighting. Weber gave the Avalanche a power play with two extra minutes for interference, and Steve Downie was removed from the game with an inexplicable ten minute misconduct penalty. Apparently it is a crime bleed all over yourself after getting hit in the back and instigated upon.
The Avs played some ugly, sloppy hockey in the third period and let a game that started out 11-3 in shots, fall to 30-26 in favor of Buffalo. In Rycroft's words, "the Avs will want to flush that period down the toilet" and move on. They played well enough to beat a struggling Buffalo squad, but the effort in the second half of this game wasn't good enough to beat most other NHL teams.
MHH Three Stars
1. Matt Duchene: 1G 1A and his 3rd game winner of the year.
2. Ryan O'Reilly: 1G 1A a few great passing plays with Duchene and Downie. They continue to develop better and better chemistry as a line.
3. J.S. Giguere: They shouldn't have needed him, and his first goal against was a softy.... But Jiggy made some good saves in the third and froze a lot of pucks slow the Sabres momentum in the third.
Honorable Mention: Landeskog's wraparound was a beauty.
O'Reilly - Duchene SLAP FIGHT!! - Downie
Landeskog - Stastny -Tanguay
McGinn - MacKinnon - Parenteau
Bordeleau - Mitchell - Cliche
- Healthy Scratches: Holden, Barrie,
- Suspensions: McLeod
• Nathan MacKinnon had a tough night tonight and saw lots of physical contact from the Sabres. He was benched at the end of the second in favor of John Mitchell.
• Scary collision between Landeskog and Vanek at the end of the second period. Both players seemed fine in the third
• Lots of scouts at the game tonight. According to Adrian Dater at the Denver Post Chicago, Philly, Montreal, Calgary, NYR, and Boston all had scouts at the game. Edmonton had two.
The Avs visit the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday. Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene will take on their training partner Sidney Crosby and the Avalanche will face Dario's favorite former Av: Chuck Kobasew.