The Colorado Avalanche came out flying and established a big lead before staving off a late rally and defeating the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 on Saturday night in Denver. The Avalanche (35-28-12) led 4-0 after two periods before Buffalo’s upturn.

“First of all, I like the buzz in the building,” Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said. “That was fun, the fans were there and they were behind us. I think that’s what we needed. When your playing your fourth game in six days, you need that energy and they gave us that energy that we needed to play for the first 40 minutes.”

Jarome Iginla and Matt Duchene each registered three points and went plus-3 in the victory. Iginla’s three assists moved the future Hall of Famer into sole possession of 40th place in NHL history with 1,222 points.

“It’s good for us because lately it’s been the line of O’Reilly and then tonight it was (the Duchene) line that played really well for us.”

Semyon Varlamov provided 35 saves.

For those out there still keeping hope alive, Colorado now sits eight points – with four teams they would have to jump – out of the final playoff spot in the West with just seven games remaining on their schedule.

The Sabres (20-47-8) continue to lead the race for the top pick in the NHL draft as the league’s worst team.

Marc-Andre Cliche and John Mitchell scored 32 seconds apart midway through the first frame to start the early onslaught.

Three terrific individual efforts created the Avs’ third goal. Gabriel Landeskog caused a turnover in the offensive zone and quickly moved the puck to Ryan O’Reilly, who made a beautiful behind the back pass to Tyson Barrie for a smooth finish with a quick move on Matt Hackett. The Sabres replaced Hackett with Anders Lindback following the goal.

Lindback didn’t fair much better as Duchene made it a four goal lead three minutes later.

Andrej Meszaros got the Sabres on the board at 3:09 of the third period. The defenseman faked out the whole Avalanche team with a fake slapshot from the point before walking around all of them and tucking the puck easily into the net.

Meszaros buried his second third period goal with a bomb from the point just over two minutes later.

Meszaros’s two goals sandwiched Brad Stuart’s third goal of the season – which came at 4:48 of the period on a point shot that was deflected by a Buffalo defenseman on the way in.

Rasmus Ristolainen continued the rally with a marker with just over 11 minutes left on the clock.

“Obviously, it’s not the type of third period we like to see.” Coach Roy said. “I have to say that I’m not surprised to see that happening.”

The Avalanche will close out the month of March when the Edmonton Oilers come to the Pepsi Center on Monday.

Nathan is a staff writer for Mile High Sports. He can be reached on Twitter at @TheRealNatron.

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