Producing shots Saturday was no issue, and preventing them seemed similarly as easy. The Avalanche, minus all-star left wing and team captain Gabe Landeskog, put together one of its most complete game of the season in front of a sellout crowd of 18,052 in the Pepsi Center.
In Landeskog’s first absence of this season, Colorado’s two additional all-stars picked up the slack in a 3-0 triumph over the Buffalo Sabres. Star forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each scored and goalie Philipp Grubauer made 18 saves as the Avalanche stayed in the Western Conference playoff hunt, now two points behind the Minnesota Wild for the final wild-card spot.
Landeskog missed his first match after suffering an upper-body injury Thursday in Dallas. He is projected to overlook 4-to-6 weeks, which would be the rest of the regular season.
The Avs, who have 13 remaining games, outshot the Sabres 26-7 through two phases and 30-8 early in the third period before Rantanen scored a 4-on-3 power-play objective to double the lead. MacKinnon, who gave Colorado a 1-0 advantage with an unassisted goal 3:14 into the second period, assisted on Rantanen’s goal for his 25th multiple-point match of the season. He also assisted on Gabriel Bourque’s empty-net goal with 1:10 to play.
“We’re a better team with Landy, obviously. It doesn’t need to be said,” MacKinnon said. “But it’s good that everybody stepped up. The issue with that is, we can’forget he’s not in the lineup. We will need to have the identical effort to try and fill that void. We can’t fill a 33-goal scorer and 80-something points. This ’s elite in this league to be a point-per-game participant or above. We can’forget that it’s a huge loss for us. ”
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Said Grubauer: “We did a lot of things right. I don’t think they had a lot of scoring opportunities aside from the one breakaway in the first period. If we keep playing the way we played today it’s going to be really hard for teams. Obviously, a great deal of great stuff today. ”
— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) March 9, 2019
Rantanen’s goal was his 30th, joining MacKinnon (35) and Landeskog (33) as Colorado’s first trio of 30-goal scorers because the club’s inaugural season of 1995-96, when Joe Sakic had 51, Claude Lemieux 39, Valeri Kamensky 38 and Peter Forsberg 30.
“We’re proud of it. It’s a fantastic achievement for us,” MacKinnon said of getting the Avalanche’s second trio of 30-goal scorers. “We want to be part of the solution, with new guys coming in and all that. We will need to continue producing and winning. It’s a new age here. When Joe retired it was a tough 10 years, I think. I feel like today, we’ve drafted some good players and we’re only getting better. ”
The Avalanche is just one of two NHL teams with three 30-goal scorers. League-leading Tampa Bay has Brayden Point (37), Steven Stamkos (34) and Nikita Kucherov (31).
The Avalanche continues its four-game homestand Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils visit the Pepsi Center on Friday and March 17, respectively, before Colorado plays with the Wild in St. Paul, Minn., on Feb. 19.
Footnotes. The Avs tied a season-low three-shots enabled in the next period. They also limited the New York Rangers to three shots in the first period Dec. 4. … The Avalanche finished 2-0 against Buffalo, outscoring the Sabres a combined 9-1. … Colorado is on a season-best three-game winning streak at home and is 5-0-1 in its last six at the Pepsi Center. … The Avs are 15-9-6 against the Eastern Conference.
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