For the first time since their trade away from the franchise, Jamie McGinn and Ryan O’Reilly returned to the Pepsi Center to take on their former team. Unfortunately for both the Sabres and the returning players, the Avalanche did not roll out the red carpet to welcome back their former players.
Both franchises found themselves relatively amped up for this matchup. Buffalo tried to start off fast to set the tone on the road but Colorado was having nothing of that. The Avalanche controlled play early on.
Colorado came out hot and fast, hitting everything on skates. As the Sabres continued to catch up to the pace of the game, the game improved rapidly.
Through one period, there were good chances exchanged on both ends of the ice, but neither team was able to put home a goal.
The second period would see an increase in action, which was a welcome sight for the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo’s offensive chances increased, as they finally were able to use their positive zone possession to their advantage.
Scary news in the second though, as Sam Reinhart collided with Avalanche forward John Mitchell. This led to Reinhart leaving the game and not returning, with what was termed as an upper-body injury.
Reinhart and Mitchell collision pic.twitter.com/YZfRV3owQm
— Stephanie (@myregularface) January 21, 2016
Following the game, Dan Bylsma said there is no timetable for Reinhart’s absence.
Things weren’t all bad for the Sabres though as they found themselves getting on the board first. An Evander Kane power play goal, assisted by Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly, put the Sabres up 1-0 at 16:38 of the second period. This goal was Kane’s 10th of the season.
Buffalo seemed to be grabbing even more momentum, when Evander Kane’s double minor for high sticking put a wrench in those plans.
Although the Sabres successfully killed off the 4 minute power play, the damage had been done. Just 32 seconds after the penalty kill ended, the Avalanche found themselves tying up the game at 1.
tanguay goal pic.twitter.com/q3yb8bvzbb
— Stephanie (@myregularface) January 21, 2016
After the game tying goal, the Sabres returned to playing on their heels. Colorado controlled the pace of play throughout the remainder of the third period.
It is safe to say the Avalanche made the Sabres play their style of hockey, which was very evident by the lopsided 18-5 shot total for Colorado in the third period.
Buffalo hung on for dear life, with a bend but don’t break style of play. Unfortunately for the Sabres, a deflection off of Mark Pysyk’s glove was the difference between losing and possibly gathering a point.
Francois Beauchemin’s 6th goal of the season, at 19:28 of the third, proved to be the difference-maker this evening.
The issue here tonight happens to bode with the recurring theme throughout this season for this Buffalo Sabres squad. Buffalo gets a lead, sits back and can’t get any other offensive momentum moving forward.
Either way, the Sabres lost. They fall to 19-24-4 on the season with 42 points.
Onto the quick hits..
- O’Reilly and McGinn Return
It feels good to finally get this out of the way. O’Reilly and McGinn’s return to the Mile High City spawned a #fun twitter hashtag (#SabresMemeNight) and even ended up trending in Buffalo. Good work, sba.
Anyways, onto the hockey.
O’Reilly and McGinn were nothing too special tonight, which is a bummer with it being such a big deal being back in Denver.
O’Reilly did record an assist on Kane’s second period goal, but his Corsi For percentage at even strength was an abysmal 37.04%. McGinn was just a little worse, recording a 33.33% corsi for at even strength.
Not the best of nights from two of Buffalo’s better talents, but they’lll have the chance to make up for it in a few weeks when the Avalanche come to the First Niagara Center.
- Oh hey, we know you!
Hello prospects, our old friends.
Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov, the centerpieces for Colorado in the Ryan O’Reilly trade. While they haven’t performed too spectacularly this season, they performed ok this evening.
Grigorenko ended the evening with a 66.67% Corsi For, and Zadorov tallied an even 64% Corsi For. Good job, good effort kids.
Buffalo certainly enjoys McGinn and O’Reilly more but these two get a gold star for the game tonight.
- Lehner Looking Strong
Man, tonight’s game had to be such a bummer for Robin Lehner.
Game 3 of the season for Lehner, looking to gather his first win of the season and first with the franchise. Half a minute away from overtime and a point, then BOOM. Goal.
Lehner deserved better, that is for sure. He played incredibly well and found himself all over the crease, making a myriad of different saves.
You could clearly see the frustration from Robin Lehner following the game-winning goal. You can’t blame him for being angry. It is very good to see Lehner bouncing around and getting fired up.
Maybe we’re ready to get a glimpse of the real Robin Lehner. If he can bottle tonight’s performance and continue that for a stretch, we are all in for a treat.