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UPL Petrifies Avalanche on "Hockey Halloween"

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

By: Chamberlain Bauder

BUFFALO, N.Y. --- It was a 4-0 Sabres fright fest in Buffalo for the Colorado Avalanche Sunday afternoon. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen posted his first career NHL shutout as the Sabres went 2-0 in red and black. The second line of Buffalo were responsible for the first two goals. Jeff Skinner led the team in points with two assists while JJ Peterka and Casey Mittelstadt each found the back of the net. Six other sabres also notched points in the win with three coming from defensemen.

"It feels great," Luukkonen said about posting his first NHL shutout. "Especially now when it's only my second start this season and maybe in Ottawa the numbers didn't reflect how I felt in that game. It's a really big confidence booster for me and I think I've been waiting for a long time."

Luukkonen diving for the save (Photo credit/Buffalo Sabres)

Despite the score, the Sabres came out to a slow start against the six win Avalanche. Colorado controlled possession and lived in the Buffalo zone for the opening five minutes. Despite the offensive zone possession, Luukkonen was able to save each shot that found its way to the goal mouth.

"We definitely didn't get to our game right away," Sabres head coach Don Granato said. "UPL(Luukkonen) pretty much saved us, kept them out of the game in the first until the 1:15 alarm clock went off."

The Sabres drew first blood nine and a half minutes into the first period. Skinner intercepted a puck at center ice and found a breakaway pass to Peterka on the blue line. The duo went in on a fast break and Skinner's decoy opened enough space for Peterka to snap home a wrist shot.

Peterka driving down the ice (Photo credit/Buffalo Sabres)

"That's Jeff Skinner driving to net and creating the goal and forced coverage to open up a shot," Granato said about the first Buffalo goal.

The Sabres went into the second period with one and a half minute to go on their first penalty kill of the game. Despite being a man down the Buffalo penalty killers looked comfortable. That was evident when they scored nine seconds after they went back to even strength. Mittelstadt scored on the fast break after Skinner made another breakout pass, this time from the defensive zone.

Jokiharju, Skinner, Mittelstadt, Benson and Power celebrating Buffalo's second goal (Photo credit/Buffalo Sabres)

A moment later Buffalo went on the power play but were not able to strike home. Just under nine minutes into the game Alex Tuch corralled a puck sent forward by Owen Power. He skated down past the face-off dot and sent a pass to the high slot for Tyson Jost. He scored the one timer against the team that drafted him and put Buffalo up 3-0.

Kyle Okposo at the blue line (Photo credit/Buffalo Sabres)

Late in the period, despite the scoreline, there was still drama. Cale Makar and Kyle Okposo raced for a puck behind the Colorado goal and while fighting for the puck, Makar lost his edge and went down hard and awkwardly into the boards. He went to the locker room but returned to play in the third period. There was no call on Okposo as he had barely touched the Avalanche defenseman. The decision by the officials frustrated Nathan McKinnon to the point of being called for a 10 minute game misconduct and a two minute power play for Buffalo.

Nothing came of the power play. Buffalo continued to set the tone with a majority of possession and that trend continued into the third period. As the third went on the question of the game had finally transitioned from a Sabres win to a Luukkonen shutout. The Sabres defense helped as they only allowed six shots on goal in the final frame. The final sabres goal was just as impressive as the rest despite being an empty netter. Rasmus Dahlin extended his point streak to eight games as he scored from his own goal line.

Sabres celebrating their first goal (Photo credit/Buffalo Sabres)

"Regardless of who we played we needed to have a game like that," Defenseman Erik Johnson said about defeating his former team. "But to have it against a team like that, that's a new standard for us and it's gotta be continued on."

Luukkonen made his final save with 1:24 left in the game, it was number 23 of the game. Buffalo move to 4-5 on the season as they delivered the Avalanche their second loss of the season. The Sabres will hit the road for their next game as they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers.

Tuch embracing Luukkonen after the shutout (Photo credit/Buffalo Sabres)

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