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Luukkonen makes 39 saves, Sabers hold off Avalanche

DENVER– Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 39 saves for the Buffalo Sabers in a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena on Thursday.

Days Thompson other Rasmus Dahlin each had a goal and an assist, and Alex cloth scored for the Sabers (14-14-2), who started a three-game road trip.

“It wouldn’t have been nice to chase that game,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “[The Avalanche] play an up and down style. Those teams that hunker down, you definitely don’t want to chase those games. So, impressive start, and I thought our guys were dialed in all the way through.”

Mikko Rantanen scored his 20th goal of the season, and Valery Nikhushkin had two assists for the Avalanche (15-11-2), who won their previous two games. Alexander Georgiev made 17 saves.

“We’re sleeping. Sleeping early. They got two in the first seven minutes,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “We didn’t manage the puck properly, didn’t defend hard enough, not enough intensity to our game. You see after the, I don’t know, call it first 12 minutes of the game, we start to get going. Everything starts turning in our direction. Just couldn’t score.”

Video: BUF@COL: Thompson nets 24th goal of season in 1st

The Sabers played with five defensemen after OwenPower sustained a lower-body injury before the game.

“It was maybe 10 minutes before warmup; he did something in his dynamic warmup pregame,” Granato said. “It’s a lower-body injury. We’ll know more tomorrow, but he was in no spot to play, unfortunately. We had no option. We had no room on our active roster even, with [Jacob] Bryson being day to day, [Kyle] Okposo being day to day. There was nobody. Nothing we can do.

“Even if we could call a guy up, we couldn’t call the guy up because we didn’t have any definitive information on Owen, obviously, and two guys that are on the cusp of going in but couldn’t tonight. So , tough situation.”

Thompson gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead just 54 seconds into the game when he took a pass in the slot from Casey Mittelstadt and stuffed a shot past Georgiev for his 10th goal in seven games.

“The first goal is always big in this league, it just is, and what a play,” Granato said. “I thought a lot of calm, a lot of confidence, a lot of poise to set that goal up and really set a tone by Middlestadt, Thompson, and Tuch.”

Tuch scored his 15th of the season on a rebound of Dahlin’s shot from the point for a power-play goal at 7:08 to make it 2-0.

Dahlin gave the Sabers a 3-0 lead at 17:11 of the second period with a wrist shot from between the face-off circles.

“I just put my head down and shot as hard as I could, so I was happy it went in,” Dahlin said. “We got a really nice 3-0 lead, and we did a really good job closing the game. We kept the tempo, kept it hard.”

Video: BUF@COL: Dahlin nets 10th goal of the season in 2nd

Rantanen cut it to 3-1 at 8:20 of the third period when he finished a 2-on-1 with Nichushkin with a wrist shot from the right circle, and Evan Rodrigues knocked in a loose puck after it fell out of Luukkonen’s glove at 18:38 to make it 3-2 with Georgiev pulled for the extra skater.

“Tonight, I didn’t like part of our lineup, so those guys end up playing more, and especially when you’re chasing a game, right?” Bednar said. “You dig a hole early, your offensive guys are going to get more ice time.”

Dylan Cozens scored an empty-net goal with 58 seconds left for the 4-2 final.

“When there’s an empty net, our guys are too excited to feel any bit of panic,” Granato said. “It’s kind of a nice feeling where they’re so hungry in anticipation of how to kill a play and jump on a play because they’re staring at an empty net. That’s kind of the advantage of having offensive guys that are responsible. They know they’re going to get rewarded if they do the work, and it was again a nice play all around.”

NOTES: Dahlin’s goal was his 10th of the season. Hey joined Tyler Myers (2009-10, 2010-11) as the only Sabers defensemen in the past 30 years to score 10 goals in consecutive seasons. … The Avalanche went 0-for-2 on the power play and have not scored in their past 17 opportunities. … Rantanen reached 20 goals for the sixth time in his seven seasons and joined Joe Sakic (1995-96) and Nathan MacKinnon (2018-19) as the third player in Avalanche history to do so in 30 games or fewer. … Rodrigues had six shots on goal and was 6-for-6 on face-offs in 18:24 of ice time in his first game since Nov. 23. He missed nine games because of a lower-body injury. … Jonas Johansson was recalled from Colorado of the American Hockey League and served as Georgiev’s backup. Pavel Françouz was scratched because of an illness.

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