DENVER (AP) — It took 28 games, but the Buffalo Sabres picked a good time to get their first goal of the season from a defenseman.
Buffalo blue liner Jake McCabe had a goal and an assist, Jack Eichel added a goal and two assists, and the Sabres beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Tuesday night.
Evander Kane broke a third-period tie and Benoit Pouliot also had a goal and an assist for Buffalo. Robin Lehner stopped 35 shots to help the Sabres end a four-game skid.
Buffalo managed only one goal in the previous four games. The Sabres have scored five or more once this season and have two or fewer goals in 17 of their 28 games but were able to break out against the skidding Avalanche thanks to contributions from the blue line.
“I think (the media) are more worried about the points and the goals than we are,” McCabe said about the defensive corps. “We’re worried about the two points that are on the line every night. Obviously we need to provide that secondary offense on the back end, and tonight we did that.”
Nathan MacKinnon scored both goals and Semyon Varlamov made 31 saves for Colorado, which has lost three straight. The Avalanche finished their homestand 1-4 after Kane scored the winner on a 4-on-4 at 11:54 of the third period.
“We dug ourselves in a hole for sure,” MacKinnon said. “We should have been better on this homestand. We didn’t take advantage of what we had in front of us. Hopefully it doesn’t bite us at the end of the season.”
Kane’s goal made up for a missed chance in the second period, when Varlamov stoned him when he was alone in front of the net.
“I had some opportunities earlier in the night (but) I didn’t have my NHL-caliber finishing,” Kane said. “I had my amateur finishing early on.”
Eichel added an empty-net goal at 19:27 to seal it.
With the game tied at 1 late in the second period, Buffalo got a break to take the lead. Johan Larsson knocked the puck back into the offensive zone with two of his teammates still below the blue line, and McCabe scored moments later.
The Avalanche challenged that the play was offside but the goal was upheld following a replay review. Colorado was assessed a two-minute minor for delay of game.
The NHL, in a tweet, explained “that all Sabres players tagged up at the blue line prior to Johan Larsson touching the puck in the offensive zone, rendering the play onside. Therefore the original call stands – good goal Buffalo Sabres.”
The Sabres were confident the goal would stand.
“We knew it was going to be a good goal and we were getting our power play ready,” coach Phil Housley said. “It was a turning point in the game, especially when our D scores.”
Ryan O’Reilly burned his former team when he stole the puck from Alexander Kerfoot and sent a pass to Pouliot near the Colorado net, and the center scored on a one-timer to make it 1-0 at 5:32 of the second period.
It was Buffalo’s fourth short-handed goal of the season.
MacKinnon scored at 12:22 of the second to tie it.
NOTES: O’Reilly had two assists. … Avalanche LW Gabriel Landeskog served the last of his four-game suspension for a cross-check on Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk. … Buffalo C Scott Wilson played 14:19 a day after being acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for a fifth-round draft pick. … Colorado C Colin Wilson returned to the lineup after missing three games with a lower-body injury. … The Sabres assigned forward Kyle Criscuolo to Rochester of the AHL. … Colorado recalled forward Rocco Grimaldi from San Antonio of the AHL.
Sabres: Play the Blackhawks in Chicago on Friday.
Avalanche: Start a four-game road trip in Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
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