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The Snowball Effect

Avalanche Ride Strong Powerplay to Victory

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Score: Sabres 4 | Avalanche 6

Shots: BUF 28 | COL 34

Buffalo Sabres Goals:

1) Peterka (Quinn, Cozens)

2) Thompson (Skinner, Cozens)

3) Cozens (Thompson, Skinner)

4) Tuch (Dahlin, Thompson)

Colorado Avalanche Goals:

1) Compher (MacKinnon, Toews)

2) MacKinnon (Makar, Rantanen)

3) Lehkonen (MacKinnon, Rantanen)

4) MacKinnon (Makar, Toews)

5) Compher (O’Connor, Cogliano)

6) Rantanen (Compher, MacKinnon)

Minus 1: Special Kind of Failure

Special teams have not been a friend to the Sabres in a long time. This time, it was the penalty kill that left much to be desired. The Sabres were playing well and earned a 2-1 lead entering the middle of the second period. However, they took two consecutive penalties to give Colorado a long time on the 5 on 3. Not only did Colorado convert on the 5 on 3, but they also scored on the remaining 5 on 4. In less than 2 minutes, the Sabres were trailing, and it completely changed the momentum of the game. Although Buffalo was able to respond with their own 5 on 3 goal, it the hole they dug in the second was too much to overcome. The Aves ended the night 3 for 6 on the powerplay. There aren’t many teams in the NHL you can beat when giving up 3 powerplay goals in a night.

Plus 1: Favorite Cozen

Entering this season, many Sabres fans were hoping that Dylan Cozens would take a significant step forward and show he could be a future top 6 center on this team. Those prayers seem to have been answered if nights like these can be replicated with increased regularity. Cozens has been a force since Quinn and Peterka were added to his line, and he showed it on the scoreboard with a goal and two assists. It finally feels like the Sabres have two scoring lines that can put opposing teams on their heels. The ability of this trio to generate offense and take pressure of the Thompson line will be key to the future success of the Sabres.

Minus 2: Any Save will Do

The Sabres have one of the worst team save percentages in the league and it showed in this game. Particularly, the 5th goal UPL let up was a back breaker. Cozens had just pulled the Sabres back within one and they shifted focus to the equalizer. However, Colorado came down on a 2 on 3, released a shot from the wall, but UPL kicked the rebound out into the middle of the slot. J.T. Compher was able to get body position on the Sabres defender and fired home the rebound in the high slot to restore the Aves’ 2 goal lead. This should not have been a goal. The poor rebound control was bad enough, but the rebound chance was a very stoppable shot. Watching this team make significant strides toward competent hockey only to have it crushed by poor goaltending is frustrating to say the least.

Final Thoughts

Buffalo discovered firsthand what happens when you give the defending champs opportunities to take control of a game. For about half the game, the Sabres were competing hard and finding success. Then, everything changed when the Avalanche powerplay attacked. The entire ice tilted against Buffalo after the consecutive powerplay goals against. Nathan MacKinnon was a dominant force all night and now has 32 points in 21 games after his 4-point effort. To their credit, the Sabres battled hard and had a chance to tie the game late, but they could not overcome the hole the special teams play had dug them. On the bright side, Buffalo now has two dangerous offensive lines that can score at any time. This young team continues to struggle through growing pains, but at least they’re able to generate offense on a nightly basis.