Avs look to end road trip with win vs. Sabres

After having their NHL-record road win streak snapped by the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Colorado Avalanche will try and start a new one on Sunday afternoon at Buffalo in the finale of their three-game eastern road trip.

Colorado, which opened the season with six straight wins, was blanked by Pittsburgh, 4-0, on Thursday. It snapped a 15-game road winning streak for Jared Bednar’s squad dating back to a March 4 loss at Dallas. Colorado had broken the previous record of 14 straight road wins set by Buffalo (April 3-Nov. 13, 2006) with a 7-4 victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

“It was just one of those nights,” defenseman Cale Makar said. “It just felt that every time we tried to make a play it was not executed well, the puck was bouncing or guys weren’t in the right spots. That’s the way she goes sometimes.”

The Avalanche fell behind, 2-0, in the first 17 minutes on a pair of Reilly Smith goals before Lars Eller extended the lead to 3-0 early in the second period with his first goal of the season. Superstar captain Sidney Crosby finished the scoring midway through the final period.

“I didn’t feel like we were sleeping or anything,” Bednar said. “I just felt like the first 40 minutes they were on point, physical and highly competitive, and we didn’t execute through that at all.”

“It just seemed like we were very off-sync,” said Makar, who had a goal and two assists against the Islanders in the road trip opener. “Didn’t have our legs all night. It’s going to happen some days. We just have to be able to find that groove and if everybody’s off we need at least a few guys to get back on track and maybe that will pick guys up.”

The Avalanche have won each of their last five trips to Buffalo, outscoring the Sabres, 28-13 in the process. However, Buffalo won the most recent meeting between the two teams, 4-2, on Dec. 15, 2022, in Denver to snap an eight-game losing streak against Colorado.

The Sabres, who have won just three of their first eight games, come in off a 5-4 loss at New Jersey on Friday night. Erik Haula scored two goals for the Devils including one on a tip-in with 5:43 remaining for the game-winner. That score came less than two minutes after Dylan Cozens had tied it for the Sabres with his third goal of the season.

“There were a lot of momentum swings,” Cozens said. “We battled back and (that’s) good but we can’t get back and tie it up and then give one up right away again.”

“Overall, there were pockets of real good,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “We just need more consistency. We needed more real good. Those interruptions in pockets, we’ve got to reduce those obviously and that’s our quest. We made our own mess on a couple of those goals.”

The Sabres played with just five defensemen the final 44 minutes after Connor Clifton picked up a match penalty for a hit to the head of captain Nico Hischier. The NHL Department of Player Safety announced Saturday that Clifton has been suspended for two games for the hit.

Jacob Bryson, a healthy scratch in eight consecutive games to start the season, will take Clifton’s spot in the lineup.