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Kane's goal caps resilient effort in win over Avalanche

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

DENVER - On two occasions at Pepsi Center on Tuesday night, the Buffalo Sabres saw one-goal leads disappear after a power-play goal from the Colorado Avalanche. The difference as opposed to recent games, however, is that on both occasions the Sabres were able to respond. 

The latter response came off the stick of Evander Kane, who scored a wrap-around goal to regain the lead just 1:56 after Nathan MacKinnon had tied the game for the Avalanche in the third period. The goal stood as the game winner in an eventual 4-2 victory for the Sabres.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for Buffalo.

"Especially in the position that we're in, it could be easy to get down and go in a different direction, but our guys fought the whole night," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "It was a total team effort up and down the lineup."

Video: Kane, Eichel push Sabres past Avs in 4-2 road win

Jack Eichel assisted on Kane's goal and then added an empty netter to seal the win with 33 seconds remaining. Benoit Pouliot and Jake McCabe also scored goals for the Sabres, while Ryan O'Reilly tallied two assists. 

Housley summed up all of the ingredients to the win afterward. Evan Rodrigues and Scott Wilson proved to be contributors in their debuts, Robin Lehner came up big with a 35-save performance and, in Housley's words, Buffalo's leaders led. 

"We've had some good fight back when we've been down throughout the season," Kane said. "Not necessarily in tie games, but we battled back. We found a way to win. We made plays when we needed to and we got some big saves when we needed them."

Pouliot's shorthanded goal put the Sabres on the board early in the second period, the product of a good defensive play by O'Reilly. O'Reilly poked the puck free at the edge of the Buffalo zone, showed patience as two defenders drifted toward him and fed a wide-open Pouliot on the rush. 

Video: BUF@COL: Pouliot buries O'Reilly's sweet feed for SHG

Eventually, though, penalty trouble caught up to the Sabres, and their lack of discipline in the area was the lone negative when they assessed their performance after the game. The Avalanche was given six power-play opportunities and MacKinnon, who was named the NHL's First of the Month for November, scored on two of them.

MacKinnon's first goal tied the game at 1-1 with 7:38 remaining in the second period, but McCabe scored to regain the lead for Buffalo prior to intermission. MacKinnon struck again to tie the game at 2-2 with 10:02 remaining in the third.

"Going forward, we need to take less penalties," McCabe said. "Our penalty kill has been good this year, but when you give a team like that that many opportunities they're going to score. A guy like MacKinnon, a great player who's having a great year, he's going to take advantage."

Still, the Sabres got the answer they needed from Kane, who collected the puck after a quick shot from Eichel went behind the net and beat Semyon Varlamov to the post. The goal was Kane's team-leading 13th of the season. 

Video: BUF@COL: Kane beats Varlamov with nice wraparound

With two games remaining on a difficult road trip that next brings them to Chicago, it was the type of response the Sabres will look to build off of. 

"It goes to show that we're growing as a team and growing and playing a consistent 60 minutes, riding those waves of momentum," McCabe said. "We had a good push back and it just was a good, solid team win."

 

McCabe nets his first

Depending on which angle you saw, it may have looked like McCabe's goal late in the second period was going to be called back. The Avalanche challenged for an offside entry, and replay confirmed that the puck did indeed cross the blue line before John Larsson was able to corral it and bring it in.

Replay also confirmed, however, that Buffalo's four other skaters tagged up in time to make the play onside, thus the goal stood and the Sabres were awarded a power play. 

"The hockey gods were on our side I guess on that call," McCabe said. "Hopefully the flood gates open for us on the back end now."

The goal, which came on a shot from above the slot area, was the first scored by a Sabres defenseman this season. 

Video: BUF@COL: McCabe snaps one home to put Sabres ahead

"Guys have been working hard in practice, trying to find lanes," Housley said. "I think our offensive game has gotten better. I thought we were more aggressive on our forecheck, our D were involved along the walls trying to keep plays alive and we were getting more pucks through. It just seems that when we have more than 30 shots we have success, one way or another."

 

Wilson's debut

McCabe's goal may not have beaten Varlamov had it not been for the efforts of Scott Wilson, who planted himself at the net front and set the screen. Wilson made his Sabres debut after being acquired from Detroit in exchange for a 2019 fifth-round pick on Monday.

"He does the little things well," Housley said. "There's a reason why he won two Stanley Cups [with Pittsburgh]. He understands how to play the game and that was a perfect example."

Wilson skated 14:19, including 2:16 on the penalty kill, and tallied four shot attempts and two hits. 

 

Up next

The Sabres will play the middle game of their three-game road trip against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Friday night. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 8 p.m. with GMC Gamenight. You can also listen live on WGR 550, with puck drop scheduled for 8:30.

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