The Colorado Avalanche had secured points in three straight games and felt pretty good with the Buffalo Sabres coming to town. Evan Rodrigues became the latest injured Av to rejoin the roster, and there was hope that the team could build off its win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night and go on a run.
Then Tage Thompson happened.
The NHL’s second-leading goal-scorer added another to his tally, as Tage Thompson has become a household name this season thanks to star-making goals like the one he scored less than a minute into the contest.
Colorado soon found itself on the power play and couldn’t cash in, and a few minutes later Buffalo went on the power play, as Alex Tuch slammed home a rebound to put the Sabres up 2-0 less than ten minutes into the game.
The Avs controlled much of the play to end the period, but got nothing out of it and went into the break down two goals.
A potential turning point for Colorado arrived ten minutes into the period, as Aleksandar Georgiev made a “remember that one” kind of save on Lawrence Pilut on a defensive bust that left the Buffalo defensemen wide open near the faceoff dot.
Just three minutes later, Artturi Lehkonen missed on a shot from the slot, and Mikko Rantanen was interfered with by Pilut scrambling for the rebound. Yet again, the Avalanche couldn’t score on the power play, and soon after Val Nichushkin got caught too far out of his zone, as budding star defenseman Rasmus Dahlin stepped into it and ripped a perfect wrist shot into the corner to put the Avs down 3-0.
Colorado put their foot on the gas and created another potential turning point, as Sam Girard wiped out Peyton Krebs on a clean hit into the boards, which directly led to a very good Rantanen chance from the slot that Ukko-Pekka Luukonen deflected into the netting above, as the Sabres carried their lead into the third.
The opposite of Georgiev’s “remember this one” moment from the second period came just five minutes in, as Ben Meyers roofed a puck over a mostly wide-open net in the midst of a strong Avs push to open the frame. Eight minutes and twenty seconds into the third period, the Avalanche finally solved Luukonen on a Rantanen goal off a 2-on-1 with Val Nichushkin. This was Rantanen’s 20th goal, making it the sixth time in seven career seasons that the Moose has hit that benchmark.
After pulling Georgiev with three minutes to go, the Avs (briefly) made a game of it when Evan Rodrigues potted a rebound off a Cale Makar shot.
Colorado’s hope was quickly extinguished when Devon Toews failed to cleanly get the puck out of the zone, leading to a scramble in the neutral zone that ended with the puck in the back of his own net and Toews’ stick snapped in half in frustration, and the Avs went on to lose 4-2.
The Avalanche were good, but they weren’t sharp and the power play wasn’t good enough. The possession stats demonstrate how they controlled the game pretty much from start to finish, but countless missed passes and blown chances like Meyers’ to open third added up to a frustrating loss for Colorado.
There’s no need to panic, as you can mostly chalk up this loss to a frisky Buffalo team and a hot goalie, as expected goals favored the Avs 2.91 to 1.18. Georgiev made big saves in key moments to keep them in it, but he was not the best goalie on the ice tonight, and Buffalo’s best players created multiple goals while Colorado’s didn’t.
The Avalanche will have a chance to bounce back Saturday night against Matt Duchene and division foe Nashville Predators. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. MT.