Hidden in the win—which gave the Avs two important points to stay in the Stanley Cup Playoffs picture—was the fact that Barrie scooped up his 100th career point on his goal in the middle stanza.
Flying into the slot area, Barrie received a behind-the-back pass from center Ryan O’Reilly, made a move and then ripped his shot up and over Buffalo backup Matt Hackett and into the top of the net. The marker was his 12th of the season, tying Erik Johnson for the lead among blueliners.
“He’s playing outstanding. There’s not many forwards, let alone D-men that can score that goal that he got tonight,” said center Matt Duchene. “It’s fun to watch him, to see the progress.”
Barrie reached the 100-point mark having played in just 179 NHL games. This campaign could serve as his breakout year, as 49 of those points have come solely during the 2014-15 season (12 goals, 37 assists), speaking to Barrie’s growing confidence and burgeoning play.
“He’s been great. Whenever he has the puck, he’s finding the open guy or jumping in the play. He creates so much for us, but also defensively he’s solid. He’s not just a forward out there,” said veteran forward Jarome Iginla. “When they have the puck, he plays good defense, and his transition is awesome. He’s fun to play with.
“It’s [his] first hundred there, and it will be of many. He’s a fun guy to play with and a fun guy to watch.”
Defense - COL
Goals: 12 | Assists: 37 | Pts: 49
Shots: 134 | +/-: +7
Barrie just needs one more point to become the fourth Avalanche defenseman to top 50 points in a single season, joining Sandis Ozolinsh
(four times), Rob Blake
(two times) and Ray Bourque
Iginla also had himself a productive game, picking up three assists on the way to the victory. The new additions bumped him up to 1,222 points all time, moving him past Jean Beliveau for sole possession of 40th place on the NHL’s scoring list. Iginla has 13 points in his last 12 contests (seven goals, six assists) and 24 goals in his last 55 games.
He’s also one of five Avs with over 50 points (55), alongside Gabriel Landeskog (55), Ryan O'Reilly (52), Alex Tanguay (51) and Duchene (50).
That kind of production—all but Tanguay had a point against the Sabres—was not only key in solidifying the victory, but also in helping the Avs remain competitive during the final stretch of the season.
“When you’re having fun, you’re feeling confident, and when you’re feeling confident, you’re winning games,” said John Mitchell. “We played strong, especially in the first two periods [against Buffalo]… Obviously, we had a little bit of a letdown in the third period, and sometimes that happens when you have kind of a big lead. We’ve got to tighten that up, you don’t want those things to happen, but overall it was a good team effort.”
The Avs jumped out to a four-goal lead after two periods before the Sabres potted three of the next four to make things interesting.
“It’s an important win for us. We had a really good first two periods, and even in the third there were some spurts,” said Iginla. “They had a push, and they were able to get themselves within striking distance. Fortunately, we were able to hold it off. It’s a big win. We need to keep putting those together.
“We didn’t want to take them lightly. I thought we came out strong. We came out pushing, and we were able to get a couple early ones, which was a big boost for us.”
While losing a shutout for netminder Semyon Varlamov was disappointing, the Avs said they knew that Buffalo wasn’t just going to role over and wave the white flag.
“There’s a lot of pride in this league, and teams don’t give up. Teams don’t give in and just give away points, and they worked hard. They made some nice plays. We have to give them some credit, but we definitely would have loved to have kept the goose egg for Varly,” Duchene said. “They had one nice goal to start there. The first goal was a nice goal, and we just were a little sloppy after that. I think we got a little bit on our heels and almost a little self-conscious of the game instead of just continuing to work hard and being confident.”
Third-line center Marc-Andre Cliche opened up the scoring at 10:47 of the first period, beating goaltender Anders Lindback to give the Avs a head start. His marker was followed up by ones from John Mitchell, Barrie and Duchene. Rear guard Brad Stuart added a fifth in the final frame, helping the Avalanche to the 5-3 advantage.
Landeskog now has 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) in his last 21 games, and is tied for first place among all NHL players since Feb. 12 (Jordan Eberle, Erik Karlsson). The Avs captain ranks second on the club with 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in March, a new career best for a single month.
First place for March scoring belongs to Landeskog’s center, O’Reilly, who has 16 points in the month (four goals, 12 assists)—a career best—and is in the midst of a seven-game point streak (four goals, eight assists), tying his career high. O’Reilly also has 23 points (four goals, 19 assists) in his last 20 games.