This time, the late rally belonged to the other team.
The Buffalo Sabres had gotten fat feeding on goals in the closing minutes. They had erased two-goal deficits in their previous three games and earned points in all of them. On Saturday, they were the team in front. They had a 1-0 lead over Colorado with time winding down.
The Avalanche tried desperately to tie, attacking as if it were the closing seconds of a playoff-elimination game. It finally solved Ryan Miller with 6:24 left in regulation, then outgunned the Sabres in a shootout to earn a 2-1 victory. The Sabres fell to 6-0-2.
Colorado broke the seal when it used the Sabres' head. Jordan Leopold took a shot from the point, and two Sabres slid to block the shot. Clarke MacArthur was second in line, and the rubber caromed off his helmet and found the top part of the net. Miller said he was interfered with by Ryan Smyth on the goal.
The shootout was a wild one, going to two extra shooters. Smyth beat Miller and Peter Budaj stopped Clarke MacArthur's last-hope effort.
The Sabres, despite using just five defensemen for most of the game, still managed to lock down the NHL's most potent team. The Avalanche is a test for even the healthiest of defenses. Colorado came in averaging 4.0 goals per game, tops in the league. It had won four straight and scored at least four goals in all of them.
So when Henrik Tallinder suffered a lower-body injury and didn't play after the first period, it was easy to assume Buffalo's blue-liners were in trouble. But they responded despite the increased workload.
Of course, it helps the defense to have one of the league's top goaltenders playing at his best. Miller was again sensational, this time stopping 28 shots before an amped-up crowd in Pepsi Center.
Tallinder was on the ice with 12 seconds left in the first period, but he never came out of the dressing room again. He suffered a deep laceration on his leg and Avalanche doctors advised he should not return after they sewed him up.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said Tallinder is approximately 50-50 for Monday's game against Ottawa. Mike Weber, the Sabres' final cut of training camp, is next on the depth chart. He had a plus-2 rating and 21 penalty minutes in his first five games with Portland.
A solid penalty kill sparked the Sabres in the second period. The Avs were buzzing the Buffalo zone when MacArthur took a slashing penalty with 5:38 gone. Once the penalty was over, so was Colorado's dominance. It was Buffalo's turn.
The Sabres finished the period with a 16-7 shots edge, including Daniel Paille's goal. Toni Lydman collected a pass at the point, looked up and saw Paille cutting across the zone. Lydman made a slap pass to Paille, who deflected the puck past Budaj with 9:18 gone.
The scoreless first period featured nine shots for Colorado and seven for the Sabres -- and almost that many combined against Patrick Kaleta. The Sabres' agitator got under the Avs' skin in a hurry.
He did what he does best just three minutes into the game, tussling for the puck along the boards and forcing an opponent to take a swing at him. This time, it was Cody McLeod, who repeatedly jammed his stick under Kaleta's chin. Seconds later, enforcer Andrew Peters approached McLeod, which brought Ian Laperriere into the fray.
McLeod, Peters and Laperriere all went to the box for roughing, but the Sabres failed to score on the Kaleta-generated power play.
Ten minutes later, Kaleta took Marek Svatos' helmet off with a sideswiping hit. Laperriere dropped his gloves to challenge Kaleta, and the winger skated away hoping to draw a penalty. None was called.