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Sabres lament missed opportunities against Avalanche

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

DENVER - The Buffalo Sabres were hoping to come away with two points in their first game after the bye week. However, the Colorado Avalanche built up an early lead they never relinquished, defeating Buffalo 5-3 at Pepsi Center on Saturday. 

Video: BUF Recap: Sabres' comeback falls short in 5-3 loss

The Sabres found themselves in an early hole, trailing 3-0 in the first period. Gabriel Landeskog put the Avalanche up 1-0 just 2:06 into the game and his goal was followed by ones from Mikhail Grigorenko and Tyson Barrie later in the period. 

After the third Colorado goal with 5:36 remaining, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma called a timeout. 

"The timeout was really [to] reset, refocus," Bylsma said. "Coming off the break, we knew it was going to be a tough game for us. It's just disappointing we give them three off the hop and we have to reset and try to get back to playing our game and focus on coming back in that game."

The Sabres were able to collect themselves, scoring on the power play a few minutes later and adding another midway through the second to make it a one-goal game.

"His message was, we still had a good part of the game to get ourselves back in it. We weren't that far off and we go down 3-0," captain Brian Gionta said. "No matter who it is, it's going to be tough coming back. We had a good effort in that, but it just wasn't good enough at this time." 

Buffalo had some quality chances early on, but just weren't able to capitalize. They ended up outshooting Colorado 37-30. 

"It wasn't a terrible start by any means," Gionta said. "We had some sustained shifts within that first 10 minutes or so, but the breakdowns that led to the goals - just like that, everything kind of snowballed and went in against us." 

Sam Reinhart, Marcus Foligno and Evan Rodrigues scored for Buffalo. Robin Lehner made 25 saves in net. 

Jeremy Smith, in his third career game, picked up the first win of his career for Colorado. 

Buffalo was quick and precise on Reinhart's goal, which was scored six seconds into the man advantage to make it 3-1 with 2:49 remaining in the first. Ryan O'Reilly won the faceoff back to Ristolainen at the right point who sent it over to Jack Eichel on the left wing. 

Eichel fired a shot on net and Reinhart buried the rebound for his 14th goal of the season and his ninth of the year on the power play.

Video: BUF@COL: Reinhart slams home rebound for PPG

"At the end of the day, I think it's on us to bear down in front of the net. A lot of missed opportunities were definitely there for us tonight and it's a little disappointing when you see the comeback happening, you see it right there for us to take," Reinhart said. 

"That game was ours to kind of take over from that point going into the third. It was tough. You let one [get] away tonight and didn't capitalize on our chances in the end."

Reinhart missed the two games leading up to the bye week with an illness. 

Zemgus Girgensons, another player making his return to the lineup after sitting out the past seven with a mid-body injury, set up Buffalo's second goal with a great individual effort. Watch No. 28 here create space, win a battle in front and get the puck over to Foligno to make it 3-2.

Video: BUF@COL: Foligno battles to put home loose puck

Foligno's 10th of the season ties his career high.

The Avalanche regained the two-goal lead with 3:53 left In the second on Blake Comeau's tally, but the Sabres responded 1:33 later with Rodrigues' first of the year.

Video: BUF@COL: Rodrigues buries wrister through a screen

Buffalo was within earshot, down 4-3 heading into the final 20 minutes of play.

"I thought we set ourselves up to come back in the third," Bylsma said. "We had that opportunity with a power play there at the end of the game to do it and we came up short."

That power-play chance came with 7:22 left in regulation, but the Sabres were unable to generate that much-needed goal. Landeskog later iced it with an empty netter for his second of the night with 39.4 seconds left.

Buffalo last won a game in Colorado on Dec. 4, 2005. They've gone 0-4-2 in the six games since.

Coming up Sunday

The Sabres are off to Arizona where they'll face the Coyotes on Sunday night. It's an 8:30 p.m. ET faceoff so be sure to catch the Tops Game Night pregame show at 8 on MSG. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.

"We have 21 left now. We know we have to win 15 of them to get back in this thing, to get to a mark where we may be able to get in the playoffs," Bylsma said. "This is a missed opportunity in getting those two points." 

Buffalo returns home for a match against Nashville on Tuesday, the last game before Wednesday's Trade Deadline. 

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