The Buffalo Sabres played with fire again on Wednesday. This time they got burned.
The Colorado Avalanche scored at 19:58 of the third period to tie the game, then won it in the shootout to defeat the Sabres 5-4 before a stunned crowd of 18,690 at First Niagara Center.
It was the second game in a row that Buffalo has lost a lead in the final five seconds of regulation. Montreal tied the game at 19:55 of the third period on Monday, but Buffalo eventually won the game 3-2 in overtime. That wouldn’t be the case tonight.
With the Sabres leading 4-3 and the Colorado net empty, Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog rushed the puck untouched into the Sabres zone as time wound down. Ryan O’Reilly gathered the puck at the right side of the net and fired a shot that bounced over Ryan Miller’s left pad. It trickled precariously across the goalline until Jamie McGinn tapped home the tying goal with just 1.9 seconds left on the clock.
Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said poor defensive positioning around the net and lack of pressure by the forwards in the neutral zone both contributed to the tying goal.
“I didn’t like what our forwards did. I think our forwards in the neutral zone got caught a little flat footed. Landeskog was allowed to wind up and come full speed. We didn’t funnel him to the outside,” Ruff explained. “But still, once it got in the zone, we should’ve had one defenseman planted right in front of the net. But one of our defensemen went right behind the net.”
Following Monday’s win over Montreal, the Sabres spent a good chunk of Tuesday’s practice working on their 5-on-6 play to avoid another late collapse. Buffalo captain Jason Pominville said that’s what makes this loss a little tougher to swallow.
“We worked on it on both sides and I mean, obviously, it’s not the way we want it to happen,” said Pominville. “It’s disappointing and it’s a tough point to lose. That’s all we can say. We’ve got to find a way to shut it down when we have a one-goal lead with not a lot of time left.”
Miller said he didn’t even know how the final goal came about until it was explained to him after the game. Regardless, he’s still frustrated with the final outcome.
“I’m not real happy about that. Don’t know what to say. It’s two games in a row. This time we got bit and we’ve got to be better next time.”
The loss spoiled a two-goal performance from Sabres rookie Marcus Foligno. It was the 20-year-old’s first career multi-point game, and he now has four points (3+1) in three games since being recalled from Rochester on Friday.
After not replicating his father’s famous “jump” when scoring his first career goal on Saturday in Ottawa, Foligno took full advantage tonight when he scored Buffalo’s first goal of the game – and this one was about as ugly as the one against the Senators. Tyler Ennis hit Foligno with a pass in the slot as he was driving to the net, but the puck banked in off his skate and crossed the line just before he did while sliding past Varlamov.
“It felt really good. I think the fans enjoyed it and it was great to get that out of the way,” Foligno said. “I had it on my mind for awhile so it's great to finally do it.”
After Jamie McGinn tied the score, Drew Stafford put Buffalo up by one with a shorthanded goal at 14:42 when Peter Mueller misplayed the puck in the neutral zone. Stafford pounced on the loose puck and raced in untouched to score his 14th of the season.
Landeskog gave them the lead back at 5:35 of the second period, but then it was Foligno time again just under six minutes later. Stafford dropped a pass to Foligno just inside the blueline, and he one-timed a 55-footer under the cross bar at 11:01.
Just 1:55 into the third period, Alexander Sulzer scored his first goal as a Sabre on a play that initially appeared to be Foligno’s hat trick, prompting hundreds of hats to be thrown on to the ice. He fired a shot from the half wall that deflected off an Avs stick to the far side of the net over Varlamov’s left arm that gave Buffalo a 4-3 lead.
Stafford had a goal and two assists for the Sabres, while Ennis finished with three assists to record his fourth-career three-point game. Ryan Miller stopped 38 of 42 Avalanche shots he faced, including 25 stops over the final two periods.
1-0 BUF: The puck bounces off Foligno’s skate and into the net, as he slides in after it. (1:39)… 1-1: McGinn races in from the left wing and goes short side on Miller from the faceoff dot. (8:55)… 2-1 BUF: After Mueller turned puck over in neutral zone, Stafford jumps on it and races in for the score. (14:42, SH)… 2-2: David Jones chips the puck over Miller’s pad during a scramble in the crease. (19:08) … Shots: COL-14, BUF-11
3-2 COL: Landeskog gives the Avs the lead with a backhand from the slot. (5:35)… 3-3: Foligno drops to a knee and one-times a shot under the bar from 55 feet (11:01)… Shots: COL-11, BUF-3
4-3 BUF: Sulzer’s shot from the side boards hits an Avs d-man in front and deflects over Varlamov’s left arm (1:55)… 4-4: With their goalie pulled, the Avs swarm the net and McGinn taps the puck across the line (1:55)… Shots: COL-16, BUF-8