Quick Hits: Avalanche 5, Sabres 3 - The Buffalo News
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Quick Hits: Avalanche 5, Sabres 3

DENVER -- The bye week bit the Buffalo Sabres.

Facing the NHL's worst team was no reward after Buffalo's five-day break. The Sabres gave up the game's first three goals and never caught up Saturday during a disappointing 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Pepsi Center.

While the Dallas Stars came off their bye Friday to post a 5-2 win over Arizona and Columbus did likewise Saturday with a 7-0 waltz past the New York Islanders, the Sabres could not follow suit. The Buffalo loss dropped NHL teams to 6-13-4 in their first gme following the bye.

The Sabres also fell to 0-4-2 in their last six games in the Mile High City. They have not won here since 2005.

Mystery man in net: Calvin Pickard was scheduled to get the start in net for the Avs but developed a stiff neck earlier in the day and was replaced by 27-year-old journeyman Jeremy Smith. Making just his third NHL appearance in a pro career that dated to 2009, Smith stopped 34 shots to earn his first career win.

Rugged start: The Sabres found themselves in a 3-0 hole after just 14 1/2 minutes, forcing coach Dan Bylsma to call an air-out-the-club timeout. Gabriel Landeskog scored at 2:06 on a deflection of Mark Barberio's point shot, former Sabre Mikhail Grigorenko burned his old club at 12:42 and Tyson Barrie clanked one in off the post at 14:24

Grigo's revenge: Grigorenko, Buffalo's No. 1 pick in 2012, got his seventh goal of the season as he circled behind the net the zone away from Sam Reinhart and pulled away from Dmitry Kulikov before beating Robin Lehner with a quick snap shot. It was just his second goal in the last 16 games.

Power play awakes: Reinhart got the Sabres on the board at 17:11 by banging home a Jack Eichel rebound just six seconds after Mikko Rantenn went off for elbowing. The Sabres had been 2 for 18 on the PP in their last five games, and 1 for 10 in the two games Reinhart missed last weekend with the flu.

Power hockey: Marcus Foligno got the Sabres within one at 9:55 of the second after some strong work down low by Zemgus Girgensons and Justin Bailey. It was Foligno's 10th goal of the year and first in nine games.

Trading tallies: The Avs went up 4-2 at 16:07 of the second as Blake Comeau banged home a Nathan MacKinnon rebound but Buffalo responded at 17:40 on Evan Rodrigues snapshot through a Matt Moulson screen. It was Rodrigues' first goal of the season and second in the NHL.

Finding offense: The Avs were on a 1-7-1 slide and had not scored more than two goals in any of the games. Their final goal was Landeskog's empty netter off a Jack Eichel turnover.

Seems like a long time ago: Colorado entered the game with 35 points, 14 fewer than any other NHL team. In mid-November, they were actually 9-9. Since then, they entered Saturday just 7-31-3.

Alternative facts: The Pepsi Center's massive video board poked fun at the opponent with facts such as these: "Buffalo has 366 days of sun", "Norwood made the field goal," and "Lake Erie is not really a great lake." The final shot came in the third period: "Hull was in the crease."

Up Next: The Sabres headed for Arizona immediately after the game and will take on the Coyotes at 8:30 Eastern time Sunday night. They host Nashville Tuesday night in KeyBank Center in the final game before Wednesday's NHL trade deadline.

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