BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — No one on the ice or the benches saw the first goal coming, except for Colorado’s Samuel Girard.
With most everyone looking the other way for a count of about four seconds, the Avalanche defenseman saw the deflected puck squirt out of the right corner, turned and fired it into the open side before Buffalo Sabres goalie Carter Hutton could get across.
The goal led to Colorado’s 6-1 rout on Tuesday night, and emphasized how quickly the high-scoring Avalanche can pounce on an opponent’s mistakes by scoring six times on their first 14 shots.
“It was a bizarre play,” Girard said. “I saw I had an open net and no one saw me so I shot it. It was a lucky goal, but we’ll take it.”
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar also lost sight of the puck after Ryan Graves’ shot from the left circle deflected off the skate of Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen in front.
“We couldn’t tell where it was,” Bednar said. “There was a big scrum going on in front of the net, so we were kind of watching that. But it turns out to be a big goal for us.”
Girard scored 13:12 in, and Andre Burakovsky scored 45 seconds later in a game the Avalanche scored four more times on 10 shots in the second period.
The goal was Burakovsky’s career-high matching 17th, and he added three assists for a career-best four points to extend his point streak to five games (four goals, seven assists). Valeri Nichushkin had a goal and two assists, while Nikita Zadorov, Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen also scored.
Philipp Grubauer stopped 23 shots in helping Colorado improve to 4-1-2 in its past seven.
Buffalo has lost four of five, and Girard’s goal was emblematic of a Sabres team that can’t catch any breaks, is lurching under the weight of growing frustration and fan criticism, and already in jeopardy of extending the NHL’s longest active playoff drought to nine years.
“Today was (bad),” Ristolainen said, using a profanity to punctuate his disappointment. What hurt the most was Ristolainen has experienced similar collapses during his previous six seasons.
“I never thought I’d have to say this, but I had a lot of these games here,” he added. “They’re not fun to play. No one want to play games like we had tonight.”
Ristolainen also happened to play a central role in Girard’s goal. After Graves’ shot hit his skate, Ristolainen drew everyone’s attention — but Girard’s — by engaging with two Avalanche players in front, making it appear he was battling for the puck.
“I had no idea where the puck was,” Ristolainen said. “I thought if I take two of their guys down, they only have three left.”
Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart deflected in Jake McCabe’s point shot to briefly cut Colorado’s lead to 2-1 in the final second of the first period.
Hutton was chased after allowing five goals on 13 shots. He was replaced by rookie Jonas Johansson, who finished with 13 saves after allowing a goal on the first shot he faced in his NHL debut.
The loss came on a day Sabres general manager Jason Botterill acknowledged owners Terry and Kim Pegula are unhappy with the team’s inconsistencies.
“To put it bluntly, my conversations with Terry and Kim, they’re frustrated with the results,” he said, during his weekly appearance on the Sabres flagship station, WGR-Radio. “They want better results.”
Botterill was specifically referring to the Sabres coming out of their 10-day break and losing consecutive games to Ottawa and Montreal. The losses led to Sabres fans going to social media and radio in criticizing Botterill and the owners.
“You can understand our fans’ frustration,” Botterill said. “Our organization is frustrated by that.”
Colorado’s Cale Makar set a franchise record for rookie defensemen with an assist on Nichushkin’s goal that put the Avalanche up 5-1 midway through the second period. It was Makar’s 38th point, one more than Bruce Bell had with the then-Quebec Nordiques in 1984-85.
NOTES: The Sabres were without D Rasmus Dahlin (upper body) and forwards Johan Larsson (lower body) and Curtis Lazar (illness), who are listed day to day. … Buffalo recalled F Rasmus Asplund from AHL Rochester. … Makar made his first return to Buffalo since completing his sophomore college season with UMass’ 3-0 loss to Minnesota Duluth in the Frozen Four championship game in April.
Avalanche: Continue five-game road trip at Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.
Sabres: Close five-game homestand versus Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports