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game recap

Sabres jump on Avalanche early in 4-1 win

Buffalo led 3-0 after the first period

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

Kane snipes one from deep

COL@BUF: Kane roofs one by Varlamov from deep

2/14/16: Evander Kane gets a pass from Sam Reinhart near the blue line and roofs a laser by Semyon Varlamov to add to the Sabres' early lead

  • 00:52 •

BUFFALO - The Buffalo Sabres used early goals from their rookies and got a bounce-back performance from goalie Robin Lehner to beat the Colorado Avalanche for the first time in almost 11 years.

Sam Reinhart had a goal and an assist to lead the Sabres to a 4-1 win against the Avalanche at First Niagara Center on Sunday; their first win against Colorado since Dec. 4, 2005.

Buffalo led 2-0 within the first five minutes and held a 3-0 advantage at the end of the first period.

Jack Eichel scored his 17th goal of the season 2:02 into the first period unassisted through the five-hole of Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov. Reinhart set up Evander Kane's 16th goal of the season 2:20 later.

Video: COL@BUF: Eichel rips puck between four legs for goal

"That's obviously huge; you get out to a lead early," Eichel said. "We were playing with the lead the whole game. You've broken the barrier of the goalie. We only had one on him the last time we played them. It's good to get to him early. Obviously, our team's playing with a lot more confidence when you're up 2-0 that soon into the game."

Eichel's goal was another for his highlight reel as he gathered the puck in his own zone, circled back through the neutral zone and came up the left wing side where he took a wrist shot that went through the legs of Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie and Varlamov. Eichel has eight goals and 16 assists in the past 25 games.

"I'd like to see him continue to [shoot more]," coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's had better opportunities to score on than that, but that's a great example of what he can do and attack on his speed there and being an aggressive shooter. It's not a great angle, but he gets a shooting lane, goes five-hole on the defender and squeaks it through the goalie. It's a pretty vicious shot he's taking - the hard, heavy wrist shot."

Varlamov, who was making his third start in the past four days, was then replaced by Calvin Pickard. Varlamov did not make any saves; Pickard made 17.

Video: COL@BUF: Pickard snags O'Reilly's blast to steal goal

"It was in our mind to think about going to [Pickard], but at the same time [Varlamov] played so well (recently)," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "Sometimes when a goalie gets in the zone you just want to let him play and go and go. Unfortunately it was not the start I'm sure he wanted."

Reinhart scored his 17th goal of the season at 17:14 in the first period when he tipped a shot by Ryan O'Reilly from the high slot past Pickard.

"It's kind of funny, we practice that a lot, and I just kind of tried to put it in an area for him," O'Reilly said. "It was a great tip by him."

Reinhart is tied for the most goals on the team with O'Reilly and Eichel. Kane is one off their pace. The Sabres haven't had two rookies score 20 or more goals in a season since 1974-75 when Danny Gare (31) and Peter McNab (22) did it.

"It's very significant," Bylsma said. "I think there's a lot of hype and a lot of focus on Jack coming in this year and what he was going to bring and what he was going to do. But I think Sam has stepped up in a big way. To see that from two young players - two teenagers, for the most part - almost leading the way in that regard, and that's a great sign for our team."

Video: COL@BUF: Reinhart screens Pickard, tips in goal

The Sabres (23-28-6) won their second straight game and their first against Colorado in 11 games. The Avalanche (29-26-4) lost for the first time in three games and have lost five of the past seven.

Erik Johnson got the Avalanche on the board 2:35 into the second period. Johnson tapped a centering pass from Mikhail Grigorenko past Lehner (34 saves) for his eighth goal of the season.

"I just tried jumping in the play and the puck went cross ice and I just saw a hole and kept going," Johnson said. "I called for the puck and caught a great pass from [Grigorenko], I think it was, and just had the tip in the open net and it was a great play by him. Wish it could've been a bit of a momentum turner for us and get back in the game but it didn't happen."

Lehner rebounded strong after he allowed nine goals on 30 shots in his past two starts, both losses.

"It was nice to get a turnaround here," Lehner said. "You get back on the winning side and play well, so that was nice."

"It was very similar to last game [against the Montreal Canadiens]," Bylsma said. "They start to come in waves, they start to come in droves and rush in the offensive zone. Robin was big, strong in net. He was directing traffic in there and on the bench. (He just) gives you the confidence he's not going to give one up."

The Avalanche had a final opportunity to cut the Sabres' lead with 6:22 left in the third period when they had a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity.

Video: COL@BUF: Lehner beats MacKinnon to near post for save

Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons was called for a high-sticking double-minor at 11:37 and defenseman Josh Gorges was called for high-sticking at 13:38. The Sabres allowed one shot on goal and killed the penalties.

"We did a great job on the penalty kill all night, but in that particular case, you've got to come up big with a kill 5-on-4 and then a big kill 5-on-3, which our guys were exceptional at killing that off," Bylsma said. "Blocking shots, great sticks from [David] Legwand and O'Reilly there and a big blocked shot by [Rasmus Ristolainen] and a faceoff won clear. There was a lot of good, timely stuff from our penalty killers to seal the victory."

The Avalanche went 0-for-5 on the power play.

"I have to give them credit; they played well on that 5-on-3," Roy said. "They were positioning themselves really well. But I mean you have to generate even more chances; that's the thing you need to do. It's kind of funny because we didn't play very well against Detroit [on Friday] and we [won] and this afternoon we had a strong game and we came up short."

Marcus Foligno scored his seventh goal of the season into an empty net with 1:50 left in the game to cap the scoring. The Sabres are 11-16-3 at home and won consecutive home games for the first time since winning three straight from Nov. 27-Dec. 12.

"We know what our record was over the last 10-11 games at home and that was something we talked about against Montreal and something again here (today)," Bylsma said. "We want this to be a hard place to play. That's going to be our focus over the next nine or 10 more home games here."

Video: Sabres score early, hold off Avs for victory

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