DENVER – Down four goals heading into the third period, the Buffalo Sabres were able to generate some scoring chances and get back into their game Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche.
However, the late surge wasn’t enough as the Avalanche won 5-3 at Pepsi Center. Sabres defenseman Andrej Meszaros exploded for two goals and Rasmus Ristolainen also legally potted one.
Marc-Andre Cliche, John Mitchell, Tyson Barrie, Matt Duchene and Brad Stuart tallied for Colorado. Semyon Varlamov made 35 saves.
“Even when it was 4-0 after the second, we didn’t throw in the towel,” Meszaros said. “We battled hard. We have to play like that for 60 minutes, not just 20 or 25.”
It was the first multi-goal game by a Sabres defenseman this season.
“We just weren’t to play in the first period and a good team like Colorado, they get those goals with those mistakes,” Ristolainen said. “We had a good 20 minutes. Hopefully we can take that one and be better in Arizona.”
To try and spark the team, Sabres coach Ted Nolan switched his goaltender after the first period. Anders Lindback, the starter, allowed two goals on 12 shots in the first and was replaced by Matt Hackett to start the second. Hackett allowed goals on the first two shots he faced and the Avalanche increased their lead to 4-0.
Colorado only mustered one more shot on goal the rest of the period. Hackett finished with seven saves.
“I just felt they way the game was going, we had no life, we had no jump,” Nolan said. “There was nothing going on and I thought sometimes by changing the goaltenders, it changes things a little bit.”
Buffalo ended up outshooting the Avalanche 38-22 and had chances to get back into the game throughout the third.
“We were jumping and we were moving and we were skating. We were working,” Nolan said. “And when you don’t do it, things ain’t going to be pretty for us. We found a way to at least battle back and fight. These guys, one thing about them, they never quit.”
Without their leading scorer in the lineup, the Sabres struggled to find the back of the net early in the game.
Tyler Ennis, who missed the game due to an upper-body injury sustained on Thursday, could return for the team’s game against Arizona on Monday.
The Sabres mixed up some of their lines to prior to the game with captain Brian Gionta taking Ennis’ spot on the top line. Zac Dalpe jumped in on the second line, Patrick Kaleta played with Nicolas Deslauriers and Philip Varone on the third line and Cody Hodgson joined Matt Ellis and Tim Schaller on the fourth line.
Hodgson ended up with six shots on goal in 14:38.
“Schaller and Ellis are a little bit more defensive-orientated guys and Cody can just concentrate on the offense, which he did,” Nolan said. “I thought that was one of his better offensive attacks all season long. He had a number of chances.”
It was the defensemen, however, that ended up netting all of Buffalo’s goals.
“For the first goal, I tried to shoot it but Gio was right there and I didn’t want to hit him so I just tried to go around him. The second, I just shot it and it went in. That’s what you have to do if you want to score goals,” Meszaros said.
“You have to shoot the puck and the rebounds are going to be there. You just have to get dirty and get in front of the net and score on the rebounds.”
Buffalo’s two-game road trip concludes on Monday when the Sabres travel to Arizona to take on the Coyotes at 10 p.m. EST. The Tops Game Night pregame show begins at 9:30 p.m. EST on MSG-B and Bell. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
Arizona defeated the Sabres 4-3 in overtime on Thursday.