Avs-Sabres Grades: Somebody had to win

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Timothy J. Ludwig, USA Today

The Colorado Avalanche won ugly Sunday night in Buffalo, but winning ugly is always better than losing pretty.

How did the individuals fare overall? Let's examine that, shall we, with some player grades:

Erik Johnson (B) - No points, no shots, but overall one of the few relatively competent defensive performances by an Avs player. He played a team-high 26:31, including 7:12 short-handed. He also was pretty good in the final minute, when it was essentially everyone running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

Sam Girard (D) - Just not a good game for the Lieutenant. A minus-2 in less than 14 minutes played, and some soft play on Evander Kane's late goal that made it 5-4. Just one of those games for him probably.

Mikko Rantanen (C+) - He notched an apple and put four shots on net. Not bad for a team that had 27 overall. But he just hasn't been the same without Nathan MacKinnon, and he just can't seem to get his scoring touch back. It'll come though.

Gabe Landeskog (B) - He made a nice pass to Colin Wilson on play that resulted in resulted in the Avs' second goal, and I thought he was pretty good defensively. He looks a bit worn down right now, so hopefully these next two days will give him a chance to catch his breath. He wiped out Risto Ristaleinen on the goal, taking his lunch money and setting Wilson up.

Alexander Kerfoot (B-) - He had an easy tap-in for that goal, which turned out to be his only shot on net (shocker, right?). So, while he got quiet offensively, I thought he kept his feet moving and made a few nice puck-transitioning plays here and there that helped the cause.

Patrik Nemeth (B-) - A plus-2 in nearly 21 minutes. Does he ice the puck to the point you think you'll go insane? Yep. But, it is what it is. IT could be worse.

Tyson Barrie (C) - He got an assist and finished a plus-1, but he was part of that third period in which Buffalo had 27 Corsi events for, to only 10 for the Avs. He made some bad passes in his own zone and was part of a PP unit that allowed two shorties.

Colin Wilson (B) - Well, what do you know, a pretty good game for Colin Wilson. Been a long time coming, kid. His wrister that made it 3-1 was a perfect shot, and he added an assist on Kerfoot's goal on the 2-on-1 to start the game. That goal, by the way, was the 100th of his career. He was personally responsible for the first Buffalo short-handed goal, though, turning it over in the neutral zone and gliding back too late on the backcheck.

J.T. Compher (C-) - Nothing on the scoresheet in a five-goal game. He got some decent power-play time, too. He worked hard, as always, but he was just kind of a non-factor overall.

Tyson Jost (B-) - While he was very fortunate to have gotten the puck on his stick the way he did just preceding the goal he scored in the third period, he acted quickly and effectively in getting that shot home. The puck did a pinball bounce off a couple players before coming right on to his stick in good position.

Anton Lindholm (A) - He quietly had a very effective game. He notched an assist, was plus-3, put two shots on net and was credited with three hits. He's been a bit better overall of late, but Sunday was something of a coming-out party for him.

Nikita Zadorov (B) - He took a really dumb first-period penalty, but overall it was a pretty good game for Big Z against his former team. He was credited with an assist and played nearly 18 mostly competent minutes.

Carl Soderberg (C-) - Another quiet offensive day, with nothing on the sheet. He also took a really bad hooking penalty on Evander Kane in the third that put his team down two men and started the Buffalo comeback. He's got to get it going again if this team is to string some wins together again.

A.J. Greer (D+) - Only played a little more than six minutes, so tough to grade him like this. But, he didn't do much in that time to stand out, and took a penalty in the third that proved costly.

Nail Yakupov (F) - I'm sorry, but that was just terrible. His sloppy play helped lead to one of the Buffalo short-handed goals. Not only that, he was soft on the backcheck that helped lead to his opponent getting another shot at the puck on the wraparound, and his shot bounced in off Erik Johnson. I don't think he got another shift after that - and with good reason.

Gabriel Bourque (A) - One goal, but it was a big one. It proved the game-winner, and overall he's just played good, hard hockey of late, after I and probably almost every Avs watcher had his dead and buried for this season. He's proven us wrong, which is nice to write.

Dominic Toninato (C+) - Only played 8:06, and still looking for that first goal. He was competent enough.

Matt Nieto (B+) - That short-handed goal was a big one, giving the Avs a lead they would never relinquish (but sure seemed to try hard to). It was a perfect shot, beating Robin Lehner to the glove side, up high.

Jonathan Bernier (C+) - Hard to get on a guy whose team let a couple of odd-man rushes happen on its power power play. But, this was not a game Bernier will fondly look back on too much either. He seemed a little scrambly at times, though he made a couple of big saves at the end, especially on a screened shot by Ryan O'Reilly.

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