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Thanks to the NHL's exclusive time window for NBC Sports,
the Buffalo Sabres-Avalanche game — which wasn't being shown on the network — started so late Wednesday night, the opening puck drop came a few minutes after the 10 p.m. EST closing time at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo.
Even if the Anchor had been open, the late-night patrons could have concentrated on, first, the orders of Buffalo Wings in their birthplace, and then the cleanup, without missing much of anything until at least midway through the second period.
The first matchup between the teams since their major trade last summer was lackluster for much of the night, though it was spiced by Colorado fans' intermittent boos of former Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly and also the dueling "Let's Go (Buffalo/Avalanche)" chants from the seats.
Eventually, though, the teams got out of low gear and the Avalanche got the tie-breaking goal from Francois Beauchemin with 31.7 seconds remaining to claim a 2-1 win over the Sabres.
Alex Tanguay got the puck out of the corner and back to Beauchemin at the point, and the veteran defenseman's shot got through traffic and past hard-luck Sabres goalie Robin Lehner to give the Avalanche the victory.
Tanguay earlier had the goal that pulled Colorado into a 1-1 tie at 9:23 of the third, and Beauchemin also had an assist on the play.
O'Reilly had an assist when Evander Kane's shot from the slot beat Semyon Varlamov for the power-play goal that put the Sabres up 1-0 at 16:38 of the second period.
Lehner, recently available again after being out 39 games with a high ankle sprain, had 33 saves for the Sabres in only his third appearance of the season. The 24-year-old came to the Sabres from Ottawa, along with veteran center David Legwand, on the first day of the draft last summer in exchange for a 2015 first-round choice. And he was terrific for much of the game against the Avalanche.
Until Kane's goal, the most notable scoring opportunity came on an Avalanche siege on a second-period power play, after the Sabres' Josh Gorges went off for interference at 11:42. The puck stayed in front for an extended sequence, with Matt Duchene, Gabe Landeskog and Nick Holden all there banging away, and at one point, Lehner lost his stick. But the Avalanche couldn't get the puck through the traffic and past Lehner.
At 4:51 of the third, the Avalanche had a prime chance to get even when Kane drew a double-minor for high-sticking Cody McLeod, who was bloodied, temporarily retreated to the dressing room, but returned to the ice a few minutes later.
Colorado managed only three shots on Lehner during the four minutes, and it seemed a missed opportunity. But only 32 seconds after the second minor ended, Tanguay made it 1-1 with his third goal of the season.
Varlamov had 27 saves in the Colorado net.
The victory gave the Avalanche a more secure hold on what would be the second wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference, pulling Colorado three points ahead of idle Nashville.
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