Tyson Jost and Gabriel Bourque converted rebounds less than four minutes apart in the third period and the Colorado Avalanche avoided a late collapse by hanging on for a 5-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.
Colin Wilson had a goal and assist, while Alexander Kerfoot and Matt Nieto, on a short-handed breakaway, also scored in a game the Avalanche never trailed. Jonathan Bernier stopped 28 shots and the Avalanche won for the third time in nine games (3-5-1).
The five goals against Buffalo matched Colorado's combined output in going 1-3 in its previous four outings.
Ryan O'Reilly and Evander Kane scored in the final 7:46 after Buffalo fell behind 5-2. O'Reilly added two assists, Casey Nelson and Benoit Pouliot scored short-handed goals and Robin Lehner stopped 22 shots for Buffalo.
The Sabres played their first game without leading scorer Jack Eichel, who will miss between four and six weeks with a sprained right ankle. Eichel was hurt in a 4-2 win at Boston a day earlier.
After Nelson scored his first NHL career goal by converting his own rebound to cut Colorado's lead to 3-2 with 6:45 left in the second, the Avalanche took control in the final period.
Jost scored a power-play goal 3:05 into the third by converting a rebound after Lehner stopped Tyson Barrie's shot from inside the blue line.
Bourque then made it 5-2 by converting another rebound in front, after Lehner was unable to glove Anton Lindholm's shot from the left circle.
The Avalanche capitalized on Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen miscues in scoring their first three goals to build a 3-1 lead in a game between two teams playing on consecutive nights.
Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov caught his former team napping in setting up Kerfoot's goal. Waiting behind his own net, Zadorov sent a long pass up the right wing that hit Colin Wilson alone at the Sabres blue line. Wilson drove to the net and fed a pass across to Kerfoot, who tapped it in the open side ahead of defensemen Ristolainen and Nathan Beaulieu.
Then the teams traded short-handed goals 1:22 apart.
Pouliot tied the game 7:57 in by banging in a rebound after Bernier stopped O'Reilly's initial shot.
Ristolainen was beaten for a second time. He muffed while attempting to keep the puck in at the Avalanche blue line, allowing Nieto to skate in alone and snap a shot over Lehner's right shoulder.
And Wilson's goal that put Colorado up 3-1 came off a Ristolainen giveaway 1:07 into the second. After knocking down a pass in his own end, Ristolainen coughed up the puck while being pressured by Gabriel Landeskog and Kerfoot. Landeskog got the puck and fed Wilson in the left circle, who snapped a shot past Lehner.
Ristolainen, who leads Buffalo in averaging nearly 26-1/2 minutes of ice time per game, spent much of the remainder of the second period on the bench.
Buffalo has scored nine short-handed goals, and five in its past six games, moving into a tie for the NHL lead with Florida.
The three short-handed combined goals scored wasn't even a season-high for a Sabres game. Buffalo and the New York Islanders combined for two each in a Sabres' 6-3 loss on Oct. 17.
NOTES: Avalanche leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon missed his sixth game with an upper body injury. Coach Jared Bednar said MacKinnon has been skating at home and has a chance to return soon. ... Colorado played its 1,500th road game in team history and 2,999th overall, including the franchise's tenure as the Quebec Nordiques. The Avs entered game with all-time road record of 598-714-64 and 123 ties. ... Sabres top defensive prospect Brendan Guhle returned to action with AHL Rochester after missing nearly a month with a lower body injury.
Avalanche: Return home where they've won nine straight (one shy of matching franchise record) to host the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
Sabres: Host Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.