DENVER -- Jeremy Smith made 34 saves for his first NHL win and the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 at Pepsi Center on Saturday.
Smith, 27, made his third NHL start because Calvin Pickard was unable to play because of a stiff neck.
"It feels great. It's been a long time coming, but this first win feels really good," said Smith, who sat at his locker with the game puck at his side. "I got it right here. That's not going anywhere, anywhere but my shelf."
WATCH: All Sabres vs. Avalanche highlights
Gabriel Landeskog had two goals and an assist for Colorado (17-40-3), which jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. Landeskog cemented the win with an empty-net goal with 39.4 seconds left.
"When I saw him get the puck, he's a fast skater so it was like, 'I hope he skates,' and he did. Just a sigh of relief," said Smith, who was in his eighth minor league season when the Avalanche recalled him for the second time from San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Feb. 8.
Video: BUF@COL: Landeskog pots deflection to open scoring
Said Landeskog, "Maybe right now it's hard to put into perspective, but for him and for myself to be a part of that, for him to get that here on home ice is very special. I'm sure he's been waiting a long time to get that puck."
Smith, who is from Dearborn, Michigan, was the Nashville Predators' second-round pick (No. 54) at the 2007 NHL Draft. He signed with the Avalanche as a free agent July 1, 2016.
"I always wanted to make it to the NHL, not just make it but be successful," he said. "This is the first step in being successful, getting that first win."
Sam Reinhart, Marcus Foligno and Evan Rodrigues scored for Buffalo (26-25-10), which hadn't played since a 5-1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 19. Robin Lehner made 25 saves.
Video: BUF@COL: Reinhart slams home rebound for PPG
"We knew we were coming off the break, we knew it was going to be a tough game for us," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's just disappointing we give them three off the hop and we have to kind of reset and try and get back to playing our game and focus on coming back in that game."
Blake Comeau gave the Avalanche a 4-2 lead at 16:07 of the second period for his eighth goal and first in 18 games.
The Sabres closed to 4-3 at 17:40 of the period on Rodrigues' first goal of the season.
The Avalanche also got goals from Mikhail Grigorenko and Tyson Barrie in the first period.
"We wanted to come out strong, we knew this was their first game after the bye week, so we wanted to come out and jump on them," Landeskog said.
Video: BUF@COL: Barrie buries Rantanen's feed to extend lead
Landeskog deflected Mark Barberio's shot past Lehner 2:06 into the game with his 12th goal for a 1-0 lead. Grigorenko scored during a 4-on-4 situation for his seventh goal at 12:42 to make it 2-0.
Barrie was in the lower portion of the right circle when he beat Lehner to the far side with his fifth goal at 14:24 to give Colorado a 3-0 lead.
Goal of the game
Grigorenko scored after he skated from behind the Buffalo net and moved into the right circle to the top of the hash marks.
Video: BUF@COL: Grigorenko's wrister beats Lehner up high
Save of the game
Smith extended his left leg and used his skate to deny Justin Bailey's stab at the rebound of Josh Gorges' point shot at 10:40 of the first period.
Video: BUF@COL: Smith extends pad for amazing save on Bailey
Highlight of the game
Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon made a backhanded shot in traffic and Comeau knocked in the rebound for the winning goal.
Video: BUF@COL: Comeau crashes the net, punches in rebound
Unsung performance of the game
Playing for the first time after missing 36 games to recover from a broken fibula, Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson logged 17:35 of ice time, had an assist on Grigorenko's goal, three hits and two blocked shots.
They said it
"He's worked hard and paid his dues in the minors. He's had multiple call-ups in the past by our team and other teams. You look at the starts that he's had for us, he's played pretty well. I thought he was really good again. He earned that one for sure." -- Avalanche coach Jared Bednar on goalie Jeremy Smith
"I'm just happy that I could come back and feel good and get back out there with the guys, because sitting out is the worst thing." -- Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson
"No matter which way you look at it, five days off, it's tough coming back. It's going to take some time settling into the game." -- Sabres forward Sam Reinhart
Need to know
Avalanche forward Rene Bourque had three shots in his first game after missing 11 because of head and neck injuries. ... Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen had six shots and has an assist in six consecutive games.
Sabres: At the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET; FS-A, MSG-B, NHL.TV
Avalanche: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-PH, NHL.TV)
Video: Smith, Landeskog propel Avalanche past Sabres, 5-3