Sabres struggling to find answers after loss to Colorado

Jonas Johansson makes his NHL debut after Carter Hutton gets chased in the second period

Pat Malacaro
February 04, 2020 - 10:58 pm
Sabres-Avalanche

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

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Once again, the Buffalo Sabres got off to a quick start against their opponent on home ice, but quickly found themselves trailing on their way to a 6-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night at KeyBank Center.

The Sabres were far and away the better team over the first 10 minutes of the game. Buffalo outshot the Avalanche 7-1 just over the halfway point in the period, thanks, in part, to an early power play. I liked how the team moved the puck to keep Colorado from closing in and ending the threat, but the man advantage did not result in a goal.

Instead, a fluky bounce that went up in the air was tracked down by Sam Girard in the far corner and he scored on an empty net. Girard may have been the only player out of the 11 in the Sabres zone that knew where the puck was and capitalized to make it 1-0 Avalanche.

The lead doubled just over 40 seconds later when Andre Burakovsky collected his 17th goal of the season. Colorado may give up a lot of goals, but they also put the puck in the net with frequency. The visitors entered the night with eight players with 10 or more goals, including rookie sensation Cale Makar. The defenseman has racked up 11 goals and 26 assists for 37 total points, which is good for second on the team.

Buffalo was able to salvage the period with less than a second to go in the period. Sam Reinhart is most effective when he finds his way to the front of the net, and that is exactly what he did. The forward got a piece of Jake McCabe’s point shot to cut the deficit to 2-1 with 0.9 remaining in the opening frame. Reinhart is closing in on the 20-goal mark tihs season with his 19th goal of the 2019-20 campaign.

However, a quick start by the Avalanche in the second period ballooned the deficit to 4-1 for Buffalo. The two goals came on the first two shots of the period. Jonas Johansson replaced Carter Hutton in goal after the fifth Colorado goal of the night. Not all of the goals were Hutton’s “fault,” but to try and find some spark, Ralph Krueger had to make the change.

The head coach thought that, “what happened the next 20 minutes [was] truly unacceptable, and we have to do a deep dive on that.” Krueger continued that he is, “really disappointed. The goal that we scored at the end of the first seemed to bring us back in, but that start and our inability to deal with their speed and their transition for that period of time.” Shots on goal through two periods were only 18-16 in favor of the Avalanche, but they outchanced Buffalo by a much wider margin.

Krueger was asked after the game if the players quit after the second period. He quickly shot that idea down.

“This wasn’t about quit, quit is a whole different thing," Krueger said. "We were still trading chances, they were just ruthless with their chances, and they were lethal and every opportunity they took. We created some opportunities where we didn’t take advantage, we didn’t have the same bite to finish off, but I think the third period showed there wasn’t quit.”

Once again, the blue and gold do not have a lot of time to correct their issues. They will welcome the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday before heading to New York and face the Rangers on Friday.

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