Avalanche jump on Sabres early in win
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After giving his team a day to rest, Colorado coach Patrick Roy stressed the importance of getting off to a fast start.
Against the Buffalo Sabres, that's exactly what he got.
The Avalanche jumped on the Sabres early and often to come away with a 4-2 victory on Saturday night at the First Niagara Center.
"Patrick stood right there and talked about that before the game," Colorado goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "It was important for us to come out strong. We had a day off yesterday and there was no excuse for us having young legs on the team not to be sharp right at the beginning, and that's a sign of a team that's going in the right direction."
Indeed, the Avalanche are heading in the right direction. After its first loss of the season on Thursday, Colorado improved to 7-1 with the win and sits atop the Central Division, two points ahead of second-place Chicago.
Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Paul Statsny scored for Colorado. Giguere had 28 saves.
"We were talking in here that this team doesn't lose two in a row," Duchene said. "That's the attitude we want to have, so it was great to bounce back and go to 7-1. Points right now, we're rolling, we're feeling good."
The Avalanche were in control from the opening whistle, opening a 2-0 lead while holding the Sabres without a shot through the first 14:09.
"It took them almost half a game or more to get into it," Duchene said of the Sabres.
O'Reilly opened the scoring at 8:44 with his third goal of the season. The 22-year-old buried a wrist shot past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller after a strong rush up ice from Duchene.
Landeskog made it 2-0 three minutes later on a pretty wraparound. The Colorado captain blew past two Sabres and a pokecheck from Miller before sliding around the Buffalo net for his second goal of the year.
Buffalo showed more fight in the second period, but not before the Avalanche increased their lead to 3-0. Duchene scored 56 seconds into the period on the power play.
Statsny made it 4-1 8:34 into the second on Colorado's prettiest goal of the game, finishing a tic-tac-toe passing sequence in front of the Sabres crease.
"We talked about it this morning, we talked about it before the game -- we needed a good start and that's exactly what we got from our guys," Roy said. "The third goal and fourth goal were big for us at the same time."
For the Sabres, it was their second dreadful start in a row. Buffalo received a loud Bronx cheer from the home crowd when Drew Stafford took the team's first shot on goal with 5:51 left in the first period. In a 3-0 loss to Vancouver on Thursday, Buffalo allowed eight shots in the first 1:49 and 19 shots in the opening period.
The score could have been worse without Miller's 22 saves.
"A lot of our vets are out there at the start of a hockey game," Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. "I think preparation is the first thing you look at, focus on what you need to do early on in the game. ... We've got to get a better start."
Cody Hogdson and Marcus Foligno scored for Buffalo (1-8-1). Hodgson found the net on a blast from behind the right circle 5:31 into the second period, and Foligno roofed a wrist shot from the left circle 1:05 into the third period.
To Buffalo's credit, the Sabres ended the game with a flurry and outshot the Avalanche 16-4 through the final 20 minutes. But by then, it was too late.
"I think our third period was definitely one of the best periods we've played so far this year," Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said. "But our big concern needs to be playing a 60-minute game. The way we're starting games right now, we're not going to give ourselves much of a chance to win."
One positive for the Sabres was the effort of 18-year-old defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who played in his first NHL game.
"You've got an 18-year-old kid out there who looked like he played 20 years in the league, and you've got other guys who looked like it was their first game," Rolston said.
The Avalanche will look to keep their hot start going on Monday when they clash with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both teams share the best record in the league at 7-1.
"They are playing really hot right now and we are doing really well, too," Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon said. "Any time you play a top team in that other conference, it's kind of always a measuring stick for us to see how we can do. They've been a consistent team for three, four, five years and we are trying to get back to winning ways."
NOTES: Sabres D Nikita Zadorov played in his first NHL game. Zadorov, chosen 16th overall in June, had been out of the lineup with a finger injury. The Sabres have nine games to decide whether to keep him or send him back to juniors. ... To make room for Zadorov, the Sabres sent D Rasmus Ristolainen to Rochester. Ristolainen was Buffalo's other first-round pick this year (eighth overall). ... Buffalo is now the first NHL team since the 1995-96 season to dress four teenagers in a season (Zadorov, Ristolainen, C Zemgus Girgensons and C Mikhail Grigorenko). ... Sabres assistant coach Joe Sacco went up against his former team for the first time since joining the Sabres. Sacco was Colorado's coach from 2009 to 2013. ... Scratched for the Avalanche were D Nick Holden, D Tyson Barrie and LW Cody McLeod. ... Scratched for the Sabres were C Cody McCormick, C Kevin Porter and RW Patrick Kaleta.