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MacKinnon, Avalanche Run Over Sabres In 5-1 Win

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When Colorado Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon is on his game, there really isn’t anyone in the world who can match his level of skill and brute force.

On Wednesday night, the Sabres had no match for the 28 year old superstar. While most of the Sabres will be able to watch the tape and move on, Jeff Skinner might be feeling the effects of the game a little bit longer. In the second period, MacKinnon destroyed the veteran forward with an open-ice hit, asserting his dominance on a night where the road team had no answer for his play. That hit might as well have been a representation for the rest of the game, as the Avalanche beat down the Sabres 5-1 on home ice.

MacKinnon finished with two more assists, with the final one giving him 800 points in the NHL. Mikko Rantanen chipped in with his second consecutive three point game, and Valeri Nichushkin added two goals of his own. In net, Ivan Prosvetov held down the fort, stopping 29 of 30 Buffalo shots.

First Period

In the NHL, momentum rarely carries from game-to-game. In the first period, it certainly felt like the Avalanche carried over the momentum from the third period against the Flames.

It took over 18 minutes for the Buffalo Sabres to even register a shot on net. During those 18 minutes, it was all Colorado. Valeri Nichushkin had a breakaway and a near breakaway in the first five minutes of the game. The big man came to play, and was rewarded later in the first.

At 5;25 of the first period, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen executed a perfect 2-on-2. Was there a little bit of interference? Yeah, maybe, but it went uncalled, so what can you do?

MacKinnon entered the zone with speed, dropped the puck, and took out Connor Clifton in the process. That gave Rantanen a ton of room, and he used all of it. He skated in, drew Luukkonen to one post, and went around the net to complete the wrap-around, giving the Avalanche the 1-0 lead.

Immediately after the goal, Erik Johnson received an ovation from fans during the first TV timeout. Colorado fans would have plenty more to cheer about soon.

10 minutes into the period, an absolute cluster of a shift for the Sabres (and Rasmus Dahlin) led to another Colorado goal. A Mikko Rantanen point shot created more chaos in front of the net. Freddie Olofsson tried his luck at a wrap-around, but the Sabres got a stick on it. It ended up on the stick of Nichushkin in front, who fired it into an empty net.

87 seconds later, it was 3-0. Sam Malinski did a nice job on Erik Johnson, who jumped in, and poked the puck away for Miles Wood to take off on a 2-on-1. Wood decided to take the shot himself, and beat Luukkonen on the blocker side, making it 3-0.

The Sabres finally registered a shot late in the period, and on the rebound of that shot, Zach Benson got the Sabres on the board.

Colorado took the 3-1 lead into the second, a period that they’ve struggled in this year. Could they hold the lead?

Second Period

Yes, the Avalanche did hold onto the lead, but it certainly wasn’t pretty.

Reminder: The Sabres registered ZERO shots on goal for the first 18 minutes of the game. In the second period, the script was completely flipped, as the Avalanche struggled to exit their zone with any momentum whatsoever.

Buffalo registered 15 shots on net, but Ivan Prosvetov was strong in net, and had a little luck on his side. Alex Tuch hit the post on a turnaround shot, and one shot trickled behind the Avalanche netminder. Luckily for him, Sam Malinski was there to push it under the Russian, and no damage was done.

The highlight of the period for Colorado? A massive hit by Nathan MacKinnon, who plastered Jeff Skinner in the open ice.

Colorado held on for the period to end, taking that same two goal lead into the third.

Third Period

As they typically do, the Avalanche came out in the third period ready to take care of business. They stabilized their play after a long intermission, and looked a little bit more like the team from the first period. Colorado controlled the puck in the offensive zone, and didn’t allow the Sabres to create a whole lot.

2:40 into the period, we saw something that no one can ever get tired of – someone’s first NHL goal.

The Johansen, Tatar, and Drouin line did a nice job in the offensive zone controlling the puck and wearing down the Sabres defenders. Drouin eventually sent the puck to Jack Johnson at center point. Johnson held onto it as long as he could, before sending it to Sam Malinski at the left wall. The 25 year old defenseman ripped a one-timer over the glove hand of Luukkonen. That goal not only made the game 4-1, but it made it an extra special night for the young defenseman, one he won’t soon forget.

The top line went to work on a powerplay a little over halfway through the period, with some fantastic puck movement leading to Valeri Nichushkin’s 100th career NHL goal. On the goal, MacKinnon picked up his 800th point in the NHL, a remarkable number considering he’s still pretty young.

Prosvetov shut the door down the stretch, including a flashy glove save on Alex Tuch, and the Avalanche salvaged their homestand with a 5-1 win over the Sabres.

Colorado will take Thursday off before returning to practice on Friday, then they’ll travel to Winnipeg for a Saturday matchup with the Jets. That game starts at 5 PM MST.

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