Scoring depth continues to elude Colorado Avalanche in loss to Sabres


They had seen this before at Ball Arena. The Avs were knocking on the door, slowly establishing more offensive zone time. A scoring chance here and there. Once Colorado gets one, a second sometimes feels inevitable, especially for an underdog nursing a two-goal lead.

But the Avalanche couldn’t muster a goal. Instead, Cale Makar mishandled the puck in the defensive zone, ex-Av Tyson Jost flicked a difficult pass to Rasmus Dahlin, and Dahlin’s shot beat an unimpeded Alexandar Georgiev off the post. The snowball of momentum collapsed. It was 3-0 Buffalo late in the second period, en route to a 4-2 Avalanche loss Thursday.

The Avs (15-11-2) had six multi-goal comeback wins from the beginning of January to the end of their Stanley Cup run last season, but they haven’t pulled one off yet in the first 28 games of their title defense. So an early 2-0 deficit against the young Sabres presented a mighty obstacle, but an attainable one to overcome with plenty of time.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen had other ideas. Despite being outshot by 20, the Sabres’ goalie made 40 saves in a stellar performance two weeks after the Avalanche scored five on him in Buffalo.

Dahlin’s goal deterred the Avalanche’s comeback hopes, and it also illustrated a key discrepancy separating the Avs from other teams at this juncture, even lesser ones. Dahlin became the sixth Buffalo player to reach double-digit goals this season. Colorado still has only one scorer in double digits: Mikko Rantanen, who potted his 20th with 11:40 remaining in the third period.

That breakthrough goal came on a 2-on-1 rush, at the end of a well-timed pass from Valeri Nichushkin. It allowed the Avs to avoid their fourth shutout loss, and it kept Rantanen at a 58.6-goal pace.

The only problem is that Rantanen has scored 23.5% of the team’s goals — more than a third of the way through the season.

Aside from that, Colorado’s best players were defeated by Buffalo’s for most of the night. A defensive lapse by Rantanen allowed Buffalo wunderkind Tage Thompson to skate into the slot and juke around Georgiev for the first goal. Thompson had his 24th of the season, 54 seconds into the game.


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