It’s no secret that the Colorado Avalanche have struggled to get much done in the ‘W’ column this season, but after the Buffalo Sabres scored a torrent of second period goals on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center, the Avs got the job done, 5-3. The win was a sweet one for Avs goaltender Jeremy Smith, his first in the NHL.

“It’s a long time coming for him,” head coach Jared Bednar said postgame. “He’s played hard and paid his dues in the minors, and he’s had multiple call-ups before in the past with our team and other teams. To be able to come in, and when you really look at the starts he’s had for us, he’s played pretty well. Tonight I thought he was really good again. He earned that one tonight for sure.”

Smith, a rookie who saw his third game action in an Avalanche uniform on Saturday, notched the first win of his professional career despite a second-period scare from the Sabres, who snuck three goals past him to nearly tie the contest. Luckily, a three-goal first period helped keep the Avalanche afloat.

“It feels pretty good,” Smith said. “It was great. We came out flying, we scored three quick ones in the first and the guys played great the rest of the way.”

Smith played phenomenally, as he blocked 34 shots in the game. While his performance certainly stood out, the goalie contributed much of his success to his defense and offense, who helped him stave off the Sabres during their second period barrage.

“When [Buffalo] got that third goal, the wind didn’t come out of our sails,” Smith said. “I thought it was great the whole way, the guys played well, and we kept our foot on the pedal the whole way. Even in the third, we were playing really well.”

With his team behind him, Smith felt like he could do anything.

“It’s good to get in there and feel comfortable,” Smith said. “That’s a skilled team over there. They look for plays, they look for back doors, but they did really well. I felt great.”

Forward Gabriel Landeskog also played a large part in the victory, netting two goals and aiding another. Early in the matchup, he got things rolling when he ricocheted the puck off a pass from Mark Barberio past Sabre goalie Robin Lehner just two minutes into play. And with the clock winding down in the third period, he beat down on the Sabres a little more as he emphatically raced past their defenders during an open net and easily aimed another score.

“Sometimes goals are hard to come by in this league, and you got to take them any way you can get them,” Landeskog said. “But certainly when you’re able to put a game away, you don’t want to lose that opportunity.”

For the first time since Dec. 3, defenseman Erik Johnson laced up his skates and took the ice after suffering a broken fibula.

“I thought he was okay,” Bednar said of Johnson’s performance. “You can just see he’s an experienced guy, moves the puck well. He jumped the ice a couple times, he defended pretty hard. I didn’t see any glaring mistakes or puck decisions, so that’s a good first game as far as I’m concerned.”

With the win, the Avalanche advanced to 17-40-3 on the season and the Sabres fell to 26-25-10. They head next to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers at 5 p.m.

“It’s a stressful time for a lot of the guys, and when you are where you are in the standings, it’s tough,” Landeskog said. “But I think most guys are professional enough to be able to put that aside and just kind of enjoy a day off tomorrow and get back to work on Monday and have fun with this road trip.”