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5 Observations: Sabres fall to Avalanche 5-3

5 Observations: Sabres fall to Avalanche 5-3
Posted at 12:52 AM, Feb 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-26 00:52:13-05

The Buffalo Sabres went into the bye week playing some of their best hockey of the season. That didn't matter, they came out of the gate slow and fell behind 3-0 in their first game back, eventually falling to the basement dwelling Colorado Avalanche 5-3.

Five observations from Saturday's loss:

Too little, too late

Just like the Jo Jo pop song, the Sabres rallied but it wasn't enough. Buffalo came close to mounting a comeback, but like they say, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

The Sabres pulled within one goal on two separate occasions, but that was as close as they could get. The Sabres controlled play in the second period and for a good portion of the third, but falling behind three goals early was just too big or a hill to climb.

Disaster start

Less than 15 minutes into the Sabres first game since returning from the bye week the blue and gold found themselves trailing 3-0 to the worst team in the NHL. Plain and simply, that can't happen.

That being said, I thought the Sabres were the better team for the majority of the period. The biggest difference was that Colorado converted on their chances while the Sabres didn't.

Buffalo actually outshot Colorado 13-11 and had more shot attempts in the first frame, but it didn't matter. Some nice saves from Avs goalie Jeremy Smith kept the Sabres scoreless until Sam Reinhart slammed in a rebound on a late power play.

Pylon party

That tweet pretty much says it all. Josh Gorges and Dmitry Kulikov got caught chasing the Avs forwards for a big chunk of the game and it cost the Sabres.

They were not the only pair that struggled, but they were on the ice for two of Colorado's first period goals. Another lacklustre performance from Kulikov makes you wonder if any team will be interested in his services as a rental at the trade deadline. The pair was broken up as the game continued. 

At this point, general manager Tim Murray should get whatever he can for Kulikov. Move on and cut one's losses.

E-Rod

Evan Rodrigues scored his first goal of the season and showed that he's a viable option down the middle on the fourth line. Unlike Derek Grant, his predecessor, Rodrigues can add a nice spark to the Sabres lineup.

They aren't perfect by any means, but for now, I like the Matt Moulson -- Evan Rodrigues -- Tyler Ennis fourth line. Kudos to Ennis for a great shift and assist on Rodrigues' goal.

Rodrigues did have a bad turnover in the third period, gift wrapping a chance for the Avs. The Sabres took a penalty moments later but managed to kill it off.

Good and bad Girgensons

Zemgus Girgensons has missed the Sabres last seven games with what was called a "mid-body" injury. In his first game back Girgensons made his presence felt, but it wasn't always for the right reasons.

The good:

His shift on Buffalo's second goal [Marcus Foligno] was about as textbook as they come. Girgensons won a battle below the net and allowed the Sabres cycle to continue. He then won another battle seconds later along the wall, sliding the puck to the net. He followed the play and was able to slip a pass through traffic to Foligno, who jammed it into an open net.

The bad:

On Colorado's second goal Girgensons, like his teammates stood and watched ex-Sabre Mikhail Grigorenko circle around the net and fire a wrist shot past Robin Lehner. As Grigorenko brought the puck into the slot Girgensons looked like his feet were stuck in cement, barely making a visible effort to break up the play. Girgensons was likely concerned with leaving an Avs defender wide-open but he needed a better effort.

Side note, I didn't think I'd ever mention Grigorenko and Girgensons in the sam paragraph again. It's easy to get their names confused when writing.

The officiating tho.....

By the way, bad officiating is not why the Sabres lost this game -- but what a catastrophe at the end of the game. Jack Eichel got tackled without the puck -- no penalty. A few minutes later he got tripped -- no penalty.

Both plays happened no more than five feet away from an official. Missed calls happen all the time and the Sabres surely get away with them as well, but that ending was a mess.