For the second game in a row, Colorado collapsed.
The Colorado Avalanche couldn't compile anything on the Buffalo Sabres, as they were shut out 4-0 for the second game in a row. It looked very similar to Thursday night’s affair against the Pittsburgh Penguins, along with the same scoreline.
After starting the season 6-0-0 and winning 15 straight regular-season road games, the Avs lost their last two games and ended the road trip 1-2-0. It’s early in the season, but they need to figure out what is going on to shut down these losing habits.
With Erik Johnson starting against his former team, it gave the Colorado Avalanche's fourth line some good chances to start. Their excellent forecheck and forcing turnovers did not lead to the puck getting into the net, however.
The new-look second line also looked good, but again didn’t find the twine. This is when Buffalo started to grow into the game more, as Jeff Skinner and Casey Mittelstadt forced some funky saves out of Alexandar Georgiev.
However, it wouldn't take long until JJ Peterka scored to give the Sabres. It came somewhat against the run of play at the time, and off yet another Josh Manson turnover and some puck luck as well.
The Sabres would control the play for the rest of the period. Henri Jokiharju had a phenomenal chance all alone in the far circle which Georgiev did enough to stop once again. Mikko Rantanen then was called for tripping but was killed off. Colorado would have their chance though as Zach Benson was penalized for tripping himself, which carried over to the second period.
Ryan Johansen did his best to utilize the power play which carried over from the second period. He had a great tip on net but was somehow stopped on the goal line by Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Since they couldn’t convert, Casey Mittelstadt and the Sabres converted themselves right after the kill on a 3-on-1 to double the lead.
After Tomas Tatar’s tripping penalty, the Avs looked to see if they could shift momentum their way. But the opposite happened, as former Avalanche forward Tyson Jost converted on a shot right from the slot to increase the lead to three.
The Avs defense would then step into the spotlight for the wrong reasons. First, Devon Toews finally got a shot through Luukonen but it trickled wide of the net. Then, his defensive partner Cale Makar was on the receiving end of a dirty cross-check by Kyle Okposo.
Here’s the hit that has sent Cale Makar to the locker room. While it looked like he initially lost an edge, Okposo was the one who caused him to fall hard into the boards #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/DUzUENhbFa— Mile High Hockey (@MileHighHockey) October 29, 2023
While it looked initially like Makar lost an edge, he only fell hard into the boards because of the Okposo hit. He went off under his own power, but barely put any weight on his right leg.
Nathan MacKinnon let his emotions get the best of him after the hit, as he was hit with a two-minute and 10-minute misconduct by the referees. Despite killing off the initial two-minute penalty, Colorado would have a power play carryover to the third without their No. 29.
Somehow, in some way, Makar returned for the third period. However, he would go back and forth between shifts to the locker room perhaps for some more attention. It was a miracle regardless he returned for some action in the third period.
He would not make an impact, however, in either Jordan Greenway penalty in the beginning part of the frame. Hardly any Colorado player made any impact on offense for the opening half of the period.
Benson would commit his second penalty of the game on MacKinnon, who had an intense few seconds beforehand. He hit the post on a backhand shot, then again just seconds later flipped one over the bar. But the penalty led to nothing on the board for the Avs.
Jared Bednar would pull Alexandar Georgiev with 3:40 to go trying anything to get the Avalanche on the board, but it came to no avail. Rasmus Dahlin finished it off with an empty netter the length of the ice to shut the Avs out 4-0 for the second game in a row. It’s the first time Colorado has been shut out two games in a row since December 2016 and is the first career shutout for Luukkonen as well.
The Makar injury was very worrying after it happened before he returned for the third period. While it initially looked as though he randomly lost an edge on his own, the push from behind by Okposo caused it to happen. It’s one of those hockey plays coaches teach from a young age to never do, six feet from the boards to not push someone in the numbers. Even though Makar returned, you wonder if anything will happen to Okposo now suspension-wise and if Makar will be healthy enough to play a full game moving forward despite returning in this contest.
The power play woes continued as well. They went 0-for-5 against the Sabres, and now have not scored on their last 10 power play chances. Part of the issue against Buffalo was missing Makar and MacKinnon for a couple of man advantages. Besides missing stars, there was no connection or chemistry, and could not get shots on net or move the puck well. They’ve got to try something new on the special teams side and take advantage of those moving forward.
This was basically a carbon copy of the game Thursday evening against the Penguins. Lack of scoring, and lack of ability to move the puck and play together hurt the Avs. There were some new line adjustments which looked good to start the game between the middle six, but then things were switched around as the game turned away from the Avalanche. If Bednar keeps blending the lines to find what works best for him, it’s got to stick eventually. It worked for six games in a row to open the season, but he needs something new now to get the Avs back to winning ways.
The Avs come back home for one game, their first official division rivalry night of the season. It comes against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night with puck drop at 7:30 p.m. MT.