MacKinnon ups goal streak to 4, Avalanche beat Sabres 6-1
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Nathan MacKinnon shrugged off his hot start with the Colorado Avalanche this season by suggesting he can be better.
“It’s nice for sure. I think I can play better than I am,” MacKinnon said after scoring twice in a 6-1 rout of the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. “I’m just putting it in right now but I think, overall, it hasn’t been the easiest year so far.”
Coach Josh Bednar agrees with his player, who has five goals and extended his season-opening scoring streak to four games.
“I feel like he’s just kind of starting to hit his stride,” Bednar said, before turning his attention to the Avalanche’s top line rounded out by Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.
“If they continue to work the way they’re working, and do the right things and pay attention to the process, it’s going to come for them,” he added.
Tyson Jost and Colin Wilson scored power-play goals 2:25 apart in a first period in which the Avalanche built a 3-0 lead on Carl Soderberg’s goal with 3:30 left.
MacKinnon scored his first of the game 28 seconds after Buffalo’s Nathan Beaulieu cut Colorado’s lead to 3-1 late in the second period.
MacKinnon and Alexander Kerfoot then scored breakaway goals in the final five minutes as Colorado improved to 3-1 and bounced back from a 5-2 loss at Columbus.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 30 shots to improve to 3-0. And Mackinnon matched the Colorado franchise record for a goal streak to open a season, set by John Mitchell three years ago.
Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin , the first overall draft pick this summer, got his first career point with an assist on Beaulieu’s goal.
Otherwise, very little went right for Buffalo (2-2), which squandered a chance to match last season’s team-best three-game winning streak.
Whatever momentum the Sabres attempted to generate were dashed with 22 second left in the first period when Kyle Okposo’s goal was disallowed following a coaching challenge for goalie interference.
Officials determined Okposo interfered with Varlamov when he crashed into the crease to convert Jack Eichel’s pass. After redirecting the pass, Okposo backed into the goalie, forcing Varlamov to lift his right pad and allowing the puck to sneak in beneath it.
“I knew it was going to be probably a 50-50 one,” Okposo said. “I don’t think me being there really affected it. But they did. And that’s how it goes.”
Okposo was more frustrated over how Buffalo started the game.
“I think it would’ve been nice to get out of there 3-1, but we deserved to be down 3-0,” he said. “We didn’t play well in the first period. Like, it was bad.”
Buffalo’s bad breaks were compounded after Beaulieu scored.
MacKinnon scored to regain Colorado’s three-goal edge after a Sabres clearing attempt got caught up referee Francis Charron’s skate. The puck dribbled to Rantanen, who fed a pass through the crease to a wide-open MacKinnon.
“Last game we started out a little bit sloppy so it was something we emphasized before the game,” Wilson said. “We answered the bell there and stayed in our mindset the whole game.”
NOTES: Avalanche C Vladislav Kamenev made his season debut. Acquired from Nashville in a three-team trade in November, he missed 50 games after breaking his arm in his Avalanche debut. … Sabres LW Johan Larsson made his season debut since sustaining a lower body injury during the preseason. D Zach Bogosian (lower body) was placed on injured reserve. … Sabres G Carter Hutton had 24 saves.
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