The Colorado Avalanche continue to make history. With their 4-1 Sunday night over the Buffalo Sabres, they win their 18th straight at home, 10th straight win overall, and have set a record for points in a month in the NHL with 31 points. They also tie the record of most wins in a month with 15.
It was almost a near-perfect month of January that no Avs fan will ever forget wrapped up in a bow with the win tonight. Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen continued to lead the line, with the captain getting a goal and the moose collecting two assists.
The first period went about the way things were expected to go. Neither team had much offense going, especially the Sabres. It would be the Avs who would get on the board first, as Rantanen handled the puck from the corner and played a perfect pass in front of the net to Landeskog to make it 1-0.
Halfway through the period, the Avs lead the shot total 10-1 and were putting plenty of shots on Dustin Tarkoski. Tarkoski was up to the task though, keeping Buffalo in it.
Avs couldn’t find another one to get on the board and led the shot total 13-6 heading into the break. Darcy Kuemper had done a solid job to start the period and looked to carry it into the second.
The second period started in the exact wrong way for the Avs. Dylan Couzens got the puck badly turned over by Devon Toews behind his own net and put it past Kuemper to tie it at one.
Buffalo had all the momentum from here, at one point pulling ahead of the Avs in shots on goal. It looked destined that the Avs were going to fall behind once again at home. The fourth line changed that momentum, with a good shift before the first media timeout and a point blank save by Tarkoski on a shot from the slot by Kurtis MacDermid.
Against the run of play, Nazem Kadri picked up a loose puck off a Dylan Sikura shot and Alex Newhook deflection and put it into an open net to grab the lead back 2-1.
Buffalo would challenge the goal because of a possible hand pass by Newhook on the goal, but it would be upheld. This gave the Avs a power play that was capitalized by Rantanen in his spot at the right circle to extend the lead to 3-1.
The Avs would continue to have chances, including a goalmouth scramble in front of Tarkoski that ended in a Logan O’Connor and Kyle Okposo fist-a-cuffs in the final minute of the period.
With the Sabres down heading into the final period, they were looking to get back into it and had the first five shots on goal in the frame. Kuemper was looking as calm as ever in his crease, not budging an inch when any chance came his way.
The Avs did give Kuemper some trouble though, having to kill off two penalties from Rantanen for high sticking and Landeskog for tripping. They were successful in keeping the Buffalo power play from gaining any momentum from the man advantage.
The Avs had a 5-on-3 themselves to try and kill off the game for good, but could not do so with some great goaltending by Tarkoski. While they couldn’t find the net, they looked to end the game smoothly.
They had to kill off one final penalty on Valeri Nichushkin for interference with an empty net on the other end. The Avs, who were dead tired, killed off the penalty. Coming out of the box and beating the icing, the Russian train would put it into an empty net to win it 4-1.
The special teams for the Avs was phenomenal tonight. They went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill, along with 1-for-4 on the power play. The power play continues to prove why it’s one of the top five in the league, and the penalty kill has significantly improved and has been better than its ranking in the 20s as of late.
Kuemper had himself a solid game tonight as well in his 30 save performance, earning him third star of the game. The one goal he gave up he could not do much about since it was a turnover. Regardless, he and Pavel Francouz continue to duke it out for the starting spot and Kuemper showed his hand in phenomenal fashion tonight.
Sikura had himself a nice game as well. He ended up shuffling lines frequently, being part of the second and third lines tonight. He ended up with his first assist of the season on the game-winning goal by Kadri. He has proven tonight that his is reliable and can be called upon when needed.
The Avalanche play one final game at home before the All-Star Break, hosting the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m MT.