Despite more offense from Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche struggle at home

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Dec 5, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) passes the puck during a power play in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche close out their five-game homestand with a loss to the NHL’s worst team, the Buffalo Sabres, by the score of 4-2. The loss was Colorado’s fifth in the last six games, putting them at the bottom of the Central Division once again with the rest of the division slowly gaining more ground on the Avalanche by the day.

“Our play just wasn’t good enough. We know our identity,” Nathan MacKinnon said following the loss. “We were trying tonight, we just couldn’t execute a pass in the first period. I felt like we got a little bit of rhythm going, but we just turned everything over. We were really careless with the puck. Their first to goals were from our mistakes.”

MacKinnon led his team in shots on goal with seven and gave the Avalanche their only two goals of the night with his ninth and tenth goals of the season, both of which were on the power play. MacKinnon has now scored 25 points in his last 16 games and 31 points on the season as a whole (26 games played).

“I thought we did a decent job offensively getting to the net, shooting pucks,” head coach Jared Bednar said. “The power play stepped up a bit, but it just wasn’t enough to win at this point in the year and in this league.”

After a 0-0 first period, Buffalo scored a shorthanded goal at 5:32 into the second to give the Sabres their first lead of the night. Nathan MacKinnon was able to tie the game at one on a power play just over halfway through the second period. However, a late Jake McCabe goal gave Buffalo the lead back just before the second intermission. The goal was challenged by Colorado as it appeared to be an offsides play, but the referees determined otherwise and the goal would stand and all momentum was in Buffalo’s favor.

MacKinnon’s third-period-power-play goal tied the game at two and gave Colorado its 22nd power-play goal of the season, which is near the top of the league. However, less than two minutes later Evander Kane scored the game-winner after picking up a puck behind the net off of a shot that bounced wide and scoring on the wrap-around.

MacKinnon almost tied the game up for a third time late in the third but his one-timer rang off the crossbar and flew out of play.

“I get a lot of good looks from (Tyson Barrie on the power play),” MacKinnon commented. “He’s a really good passer so he gives me good one-timer looks. It’d be nice if (the shot off) the crossbar went down, not up.”

The Avalanche now face, perhaps, their toughest road trip of the year playing the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, respectively. After struggling at home, playing the league’s elite on the road will certainly prove to be a daunting task.

Avs captain Gabe Landeskog will return to the lineup having served the entirety of his suspension four-game suspension.

The Avalanche take the ice next on Thursday evening to take on the NHL’s most offensively potent team, the Tampa Bay Lighting at 5:30 PM MST.

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