(WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres lost to the No. 1 ranked team in the NHL, 4-1, but considering it was back-to-back in the high altitude on Denver, Colorado and missing numerous players, I thought they gave it everything they had.
The Colorado Avalanche can make you pay for even the smallest mistake, and they did in the first period when Mikko Rantanen outworked Mark Pysyk along the back wall to feed Gabe Landeskog for a goal. Dustin Tokarski, who was starting his first game since Nov. 29 and had no chance.
Tokarski did well after suffering from COVID-19 fog, making 32 saves.
The game got away from the Sabres midway through the second period because of a failed challenge, but I don’t blame head coach Don Granato one bit.
Nazem Kadri scored when a puck slid out to him. Right before that, it looked like Alex Newhook punched the puck forward to Dylan Sikura, which would’ve made it a hand pass. Granato challenged, and Toronto ruled that the puck went off Newhook’s arm.
Buffalo got a penalty for a failed challenge, and a team like the Avalanche, that lethal will take advantage. That's exactly what Rantanen did.
Despite trailing 3-1, the Sabres actually got better throughout the game.
Tage Thompson couldn’t play due to injury, and Casey Mittelstadt got hurt again in the first period, putting the Sabres at 10 forwards. Without their top two centers in a back-to-back situation, Buffalo came out hard in the third period.
Darcy Kuemper made 13 saves in the period, and 30 overall on the night.
The Sabres even had to kill off 1:45's worth of a 5-on-3 penalty kill and did a terrific job. The Avalanche got the fourth goal late into an empty net.
There was a testing problem in the lab in Arizona, which gave the Sabres positive tests on Saturday and put three players out of their lineup. All eight people with the Sabres re-tested and were found negative, so they got flights from Arizona to get to Denver for the game. Only Rasmus Asplund didn’t make it in time.
Rasmus Dahlin found out during warm-up that he was cleared, so he dressed in time to play.