Sam Reinhart scored the lone goal for the Buffalo Sabres as a lopsided second period allowed the Colorado Avalanche to run away with a 6-1 victory at KeyBank Center on Tuesday.
Reinhart's goal cut a 2-0 deficit in half with less than a second remaining in the first period. The Avalanche responded with four goals on 10 shots in the second, all of which were products of breakdowns that allowed them to earn high-danger chances in transition.
The loss was Buffalo's third in four home games since returning from the All-Star break, coming on the heels of a 2-1 victory over Columbus on Saturday.
"I think there's a lot of reflecting that needs to be going on and guys need to demand a lot more out of themselves than they have," Reinhart said afterward.
Video: BUF Recap: Reinhart scores in 6-1 loss to Avalanche
Andre Burakovsky led the way for the Avalanche with a goal and three assists. Valeria Nichushkin (1+2) and Nazem Kadri (1+1) also had multi-point efforts, while Samuel Girard, Nikita Zadorov, and Mikko Rantanen all added goals.
Colorado entered the night having scored a league-best average of 3.64 goals per game. Ralph Krueger spoke prior to the contest about the Avalanche's speed and tendency to attack with four players on the rush, elements the Sabres handled well early. Shots were in Buffalo's favor, 10-1, through the first 10 minutes.
Odd circumstances led to Colorado's first goal, scored with 6:48 left in the opening period. A shot hit off the leg of Rasmus Ristolainen, sending the puck toward the right corner. The Sabres' other defenders thought the puck had stayed near Ristolainen, who was boxing out two defenders to the left of the net.
With all eyes on Ristolainen - other than those of Jeff Skinner, who tried to warn his teammates of the puck's location - Girard pounced on the loose puck and buried it. Burakovsky scored on an odd-man rush less than a minute later.
Reinhart's goal - a deflection with nine-tenths of a second remaining - could have swung momentum. Instead, mistakes piled up in the following period.
"What happened then the next 20 minutes (is) truly unacceptable, and we have to do a deep dive on that," Krueger said. "Really disappointed. The goal that we scored at the end of the first seemed to bring us back into that start. Our inability to deal with their speed and their transition for that period of time, we seemed to be well prepared for it.
"I thought we began by playing the game we wanted to play, but we just deserted it. The final result is what it is. It's a slap where you need some more time than what I've had right now to digest. Again, we have no time for a big recovery. But, yeah, we're very disappointed right now and quite an unacceptable result."
Video: POSTGAME: Krueger
All four of Colorado's second-period goals were scored on the rush. Carter Hutton was removed from the game after allowing five goals on 13 shots in 30:26.
"I don't think it's fair to put this on Carter," Krueger said. "People look at the shot clock, but they outchanced us. They outchanced us, even when the shots were quite equal there. It wouldn't be fair it put this one on him, it's all of us - coaches, players - all us together. This is on all of us. We need to pull together and react to this. We have a game here at home in two nights. We need to show a different side and push."
Jonas Johansson made his NHL debut in relief of Hutton. The first shot he faced came on a 2-on-1 rush between two of the game's elite forwards in Nathan MacKinnon and Rantanen, the latter of whom picked the near-side corner with a wrist shot that went in off the crossbar.
Johansson recovered to stop the remaining 13 shots he faced.
"It's a great experience," he said. "It's something [I've been] looking forward to and dreamed of since we were kids. Not the way you want the game to go, but I'm just glad to have had my first minutes."
The Sabres play five of their next six games at home. With 29 games now left to try and make up ground in the standings, they'll look to issue a quick response.
"I think it's all coming down to the players at this point," Reinhart said. "I think that the systems and the game plans that are set out for us give us an opportunity to have success. I think it goes back to what I'm trying to preach here. Guys need to demand more out of themselves and a lot of guys need to step the hell up."
"We're in a difficult situation, especially here at home, where the fans have been so loyal, are so passionate about the Sabres," added Krueger. "We want to give them things to cheer about. We didn't do it now, but we have some home games coming up here, so let's give them what they deserve."
Reinhart stays hot
Reinhart's goal gives him 14 points (7+7) in Buffalo's last 14 games. The forward began the play by winning a battle in the corner and then peeled off to the net-front, where he deflected a Jake McCabe shot to put the Sabres on the board with nine-tenths of a second remaining in the first period.
Video: COL@BUF: Reinhart tips home goal in front
The Sabres continue the homestand against Detroit on Thursday. The game can be seen on NBCSN, or you can listen on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.