After another long week on the road the Colorado Avalanche bring home a 5-4 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in a contest which proved more difficult than necessary but ultimately the better team prevailed.
The Avalanche needed a fast start to grab some momentum and did just that 43 seconds into the game when Alexander Kerfoot deposited a great touch pass from Colin Wilson. The action wouldn't stop there when the two teams traded shorthanded goals. The first from Benoit Pouliot at 7:57 and then Matt Nieto answered back at 9:19.
The second period went much like the first with the Avalanche getting an early goal by Colin Wilson just 1:07 into the period and then they gave up another shorthanded goal at 13:15 to Casey Nelson. It was a penalty filled period without much flow but the Avalanche went into the break up 3-2.
Finally in the third period the Avalanche converted on a power play in their favor with Tyson Jost unleashing his quick release on a rebound. Then the sniper himself Gabriel Bourque added an insurance goal at 7:03. Little did he know that would become the eventual game winner after Buffalo added a 5 on 3 goal from Ryan O'Reilly at 12:14 and another from Evander Kane at 17:03 with the goaltender pulled.
The Sabres and Avalanche will always be an interesting matchup if only from the standpoint that the Ryan O'Reilly trade comes into focus and comparison of those teams twice a year. The Avalanche had key contributions from Nikita Zadorov with a great stretch pass on the opening goal and JT Compher logged 21 minutes this evening and even a few minutes from AJ Greer, who was also part of the trade via the draft pick in the deal. O'Reilly for his part performed well in this contest with a goal and two shorthanded assists but the trade is a hard lesson on what happens if an organization gets impatient and speeds up their rebuild. Even getting one good player isn't worth consolidating assets and sacrificing youth. The Avalanche need to heed this warning as they are assessing the assets they've gained from the Matt Duchene trade in the next couple of years.
Gabriel Bourque has been a quiet contributor this season and has really stepped up recently with three goals in the last four games giving him four goals on the year and the most he's scored in a year since the 2013-14 season. Bourque has been wearing a letter in Blake Comeau's absence and seems to have really solidified his place on the team. It's crazy to think that he spent an entire season in the AHL with San Antonio and was available for call-up at any time but the Avalanche preferred to leave him in the minors.
A short stay upcoming at home will give the Avalanche time to assess their roster on the injury front with Nathan MacKinnon possibly returning within the week. Hopefully Sven Andrighetto, Mark Barberio and now Blake Comeau are closer to returning as well.
The Avalanche finally get two consecutive days off and head home to take on the Montreal Canadiens at 7:30pm MT on Wednesday, February 14th.