On the eve of Super Bowl XLVIII the Avalanche went out Saturday afternoon and put up a touchdown at Pepsi Center.
Five Avs had goals, including Gabriel Landeskog and Jamie McGinn with two apiece, and Colorado potted seven shots for the first time since March 2012.
Tyson Barrie started the onslaught with one of three first-period Avalanche scores, Marc-Andre Cliche scored his first career NHL goal in the second, and Nathan MacKinnon added a goal late in the second period to a game sheet that already included two assists.
Erik Johnson had a game-high and season-high three assists.
"It was our last game before the Olympic break in front of our fans,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said, “and our players wanted to please our fans as well. It was exciting for everybody.”
Roy had two messages for his team in the hours that followed Thursday's victory against Minnesota, and Saturday’s result offered up some immediate evidence that Roy’s message rang home.
Even though Colorado (35-14-5) is in the middle of one of its best seasons ever Roy wanted his team to have more of a killer instinct, and he also didn’t want his players to look past Buffalo, which came into Saturday’s game with the NHL’s worst record.
Done. And done.
Colorado led the Wild 4-1 on Thursday but had to hold on for a seat-cushion-ripping 5-4 win. The same scene didn’t play out Saturday. Colorado led 4-0 with just less than 34 minutes left in regulation and didn’t let up, netting three more scores en route to a blowout.
And, yes, the Sabres entered a struggling bunch overall, but they had earned points in three of their past four road games, including getting a 3-2 win Thursday at Phoenix. Roy voiced his don’t-take-them-lightly warning yesterday during practice and brought it up again when talking to the media afterward.
He wanted his team to be ready, and, boy, was it.
“It was not a tough message,” Roy said. “It was just a good conversation we had yesterday on the ice before practice. I thought it was just a matter of between periods [trying] to say focused and have the same preparation we have at the start of the game. I thought’s what the guys did.”
Colorado maintained momentum throughout the game Saturday afternoon and earned a season-sweep against Buffalo. It also matched its 2000-01 and Stanley Cup-winning counterparts for most wins through 54 games in franchise history.
"… I think our guys were sharp,” Roy said. “We were skating well, I thought we moved the puck well, we were also moving very fast, and that was the key. It was a beauty watching our guys today."
THIS MacKINNON KID IS GOOD
It’s becoming a bit of challenge these days to feature in this postgame space any of the Avalanche players but rookie-sensation MacKinnon.
He just completed a remarkable January and started the year’s second month Saturday afternoon with his best single-game effort this season, scoring a goal and passing out two assists in the Avs win.
His goal came near the end of the second period, following a no-look between-the-legs pass from Johnson. He preceded that in the first period with an assist on Barrie’s seventh goal of the season, and he also assisted about five minutes later on the first of Landeskog’s two goals.
MacKinnon set up the latter with some exceptionally quick skating down the right side before making a picture-perfect, last-second crossing pass to Landeskog.
"The speed that he put on [to set up the goal] was magic," Roy said. “He is a special player. I see huge improvement in his game, and it's fun to see."
MacKinnon led the Avalanche and all NHL rookies with nine goals in January, and his 13 points ranked third among the league’s first-year players. His nine goals were the second most in a month by a Colorado rookie (Marek Svatos - 10, Jan. 2006).
All that’s an accomplishment, for sure, but he didn’t dwell or rest on it. Instead he recorded his first career three-point game and scored his 20th goal of the season, becoming the seventh rookie in Avalanche history (since 1995-96) to score at least 20 goals.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch him play out there,” Landeskog said. “He’s certainly gaining confidence, and he’s certainly on fire right now, and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”
- Cliche scored his first career goal Saturday, finding the net in his 49th career game after joining the Avalanche in September off a waiver claim from the Los Angeles Kings, who had Cliche in their system for six seasons.
Cliche found the right side of the net at 6:05 of the second period after taking a cross-crease pass from Patrick Bordeleau. The score made it 4-0 Colorado, and the route was on.
“I forgot how good it felt to score a goal,” Cliche said. “And scoring like this? I mean, it could not have been a better set up from Bordeleau there. Just a tap in for me; it felt great.”
- Saturday’s game was the Avalanche’s final home game before the NHL’s 2014 Olympic break, which starts Sunday, Feb. 9 and ends with the resumption of games Feb. 26. The Avs, who have four road contests this week before the break, will be back at Pepsi Center on Feb. 26 against Los Angeles.
- Colorado improved to 9-2-2 in its previous 13 home games and 19-7-3 overall this year at Pepsi Center (.741).
- The Avalanche improved to 35-14-5 (75 points) and tied the 2000-01 Avs team for most wins through 54 games in franchise history. That team, which had 79 points through 54 games, finished the season hoisting the Stanley Cup.
- Cody McLeod’s third-period fight with Buffalo’s Zenon Konopka saddled him with a five-minute major penalty for fighting. It gave him 953 career penalty minutes, which is the most in Avalanche history (since 1995). He entered the game tied with former Av Adam Foote.
- The Avs finished 2-0 this season against the Sabres and outscored Buffalo 11-3. The Avs have won seven straight games against the Sabres, with three of those victories coming in a shootout. Buffalo’s last win against Colorado came Dec. 4, 2005 at Pepsi Center.
- The Avs are 14-5-1 against Eastern Conference teams this year and 8-3-1 against them at home. Colorado is 27-9-2 against Eastern Conference opponents since the start of the 2011-12 season.
- Johnson notched assists in each period, giving him a season-high and career high-tying three assists. He helped on the first of McGinn’s goals in the first, MacKinnon’s blast in the second, and Landeskog’s second goal in the third. He’s now had three assists in a game five times in his career.
- Bordeleau skated Saturday in his 100th career NHL game. He’s the 17th active player for Colorado to reach the 100-games mark. Andre Benoit (94 games) is six shy of becoming the 18th.
- Ryan O'Reilly’s assist on McGinn’s first-period power-play goal was the 100th of his career.
- Alex Tanguay (knee) and Paul Stastny (ankle) were Colorado’s scratches. Both suffered their injuries Thursday against Minnesota, and Roy considered them day-to-day during Friday’s post-practice news conference.