A five-goal first period set up what would be a heck of a game between the Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabres. The Avs would eventually beat out the Sabres 5-3 Saturday afternoon despite a Tage Thompson hat trick for the Sabres.
The first period had everyone wide awake, but the Avs then fell asleep in the second period. They would eventually wake up after going into the third period tied at three and pull out on top. It was closer than the Avs would’ve wanted, but they continue to rack up their point dally, division lead and race for the Presidents Trophy.
Things got going right from the get-go. Thompson scored from the top of the circles surprising everyone and giving the Sabres an early 1-0 lead.
Not even one minute later, Nathan MacKinnon received a pass from Cale Makar in the near side circle. He would find the five hole of Dustin Tokarski and tie the game at one.
MacKinnon would get a second goal just a minute later, but was stopped by an early whistle. Tokarski never covered the puck and it’d ended up behind him. MacKinnon put it in but the whistle was blown just before and was losing his mind to the referee afterwards, deservingly so.
The Avs would respond though, as J.T. Compher tracked down the puck, beating a couple of Sabres to it. He brought it to the front of the net and it just bounced the right way over Tokarski for the 2-1 lead.
Then Thompson got his second goal of the game thanks to a great pass behind the net from Jeff Skinner. The Sabres had tied it to keep it close, now at two.
But just 20 seconds later, the Avs responded in emphatic fashion. Valeri Nichushkin found Nazem Kadri behind him on the far side. Kadri rifled it home top corner and light the fire even brighter in the first period, giving the Avs the 3-2 advantage.
Darcy Kuemper found himself busy, almost allowing one in off of a crazy bounce off the end boards. He made some big saves early on to do his best to keep the scoring down. The Avs had a power play that would eventually be carried over into the second period.
There was not as much action in the first half of the second period. Each team settled down and had collected themselves a lot more. Each goaltender was asked questions of a couple of times.
They had answered the calls nicely, but then the second half of the period was a whole other different story. After Kuemper stopped Skinner on the breakaway, just seconds later Thompson turned around and sniped it home for his hat trick, and his teams third goal of the day.
The Sabres kept coming and coming at the Avs, continuing to push for the lead. They could smell blood in the water, especially after Alex Tuch hit the post shorthanded. On the other end, Devon Toews also found the post with a gaping net. It wouldn’t go in for either team as we were all square heading into the third.
The first eight minutes of the third period had not much going at all, as neither team could even connect passes. That would change after the first line for the Avs got some momentum going.
After Rasmus Dahlin took a hard fall from Jack Johnson behind the Avs net, Mikko Rantanen and Alex Newhook came down the other end. They connected and the 21-year old scored to give the Avs the lead.
After killing off an Erik Johnson penalty, physicality was increased. Kadri took a hit to the hand and looked to be grimacing a bit, and seconds later Andre Burakovsky was smashed down by Dahlin in front of the boards.
Kadri had a semi-breakaway but just missed the net on a turnaround shot that could’ve killed it off. Tokarski would go the bench with just under 1:30 left to tie the game, but Rantanen would find the empty net taking it in all by himself to finally win it for the Avs 5-3.
The first period held all the action of this game. There was no defense, and things were out of control for both teams. They traded blow-for-blow with five goals including one disallowed goal for MacKinnon. While it was great from a neutral standpoint, it was good for the Avs to calm it down for the rest of the game.
After the crazy first period, both teams calmed down but the level of play went down as well. The Avs didn’t bring their best performance into the game after that first period, and often found themselves losing the puck or not connecting with one another. The puck management needs to be better, especially against teams that are at a much higher level than the Buffalo Sabres are.
The point totals continued to rise for the Avs, as Makar got his 50th point of the season assisting on MacKinnon’s goal in the first period. Kadri also recorded his 63rd point of the season, continuing to rally up his total and extend his career best. While it would be nice to have some more depth scoring, the Avs continue to rely on the big name players for some key wins.
The Avs continue their East Coast swing of this road trip, with another early morning matchup against the Boston Bruins on Monday. Puck drop is once again at 11:00 a.m. MT.