DENVER -- Marc-Andre Cliche found himself on the doorstep, the puck on his stick and a wide-open net in front of him.
He had chances to score before, but nothing this good, so the right winger did not waste the opportunity. He buried the puck for his first NHL goal and the Colorado Avalanche bench exploded in celebration.
"We wanted him to score that for so long and he's had so many chances lately. It was great to see him score that one," left winger Gabriel Landeskog said. "The whole bench erupted."
It was that kind of day for the Avalanche.
Left winger Jamie McGinn had two goals and an assist, Landeskog scored twice and Colorado used a strong start to beat the Buffalo Sabres 7-1 on Saturday.
Center Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists and goaltender Semyon Varlamov had 27 saves and an assist for the Avalanche.
The Avalanche are used to their big guns scoring, but when a fourth-line player like Cliche gets a goal, it's cause for celebration. His teammates did by squirting him with water as he skated by the bench after his milestone.
"I was trying to get him right in the face. I was so happy for him," Landeskog said. "It was so awesome to see how relieved he was to tap that one home."
Not as relieved as Cliche.
"I just said, 'finally,'" Cliche said. "So much weight off my shoulder. I know maybe I'm not supposed to score, but when you score one like that, it feels unbelievable, especially in a 7-1 win like this."
It was a good way to say goodbye to the Avalanche fans. Colorado is headed on a four-game Eastern Conference road trip before the Olympic break and will not play another home game until Feb. 26. The Avalanche finished a short two-game homestand with a convincing win over a Buffalo team they have dominated since the lockout nine years ago.
The Sabres have lost seven straight to Colorado, four in overtime or in a shootout. It is their longest current drought against any team.
"We weren't ready to go from the get-go," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. "We never laid a body on anyone. It was a very ugly game to watch."
Right winger Matt D'Agostini scored for Buffalo and goalie Ryan Miller allowed five goals on 27 shots before being pulled in favor of Jhonas Enroth to start the third period. Enroth finished with 10 saves.
"It's obviously a hard game for us. A very tough game for us," Miller said. "We have to come to compete from the start. Thatís where we lost the game."
Colorado made sure their mastery of the Sabres continued with three goals in the first period. Defenseman Tyson Barrie scored 7:37 into the game, McGinn scored at the end of a double-minor and Landeskog made it 3-0 off a feather pass from MacKinnon 58 seconds later.
Cliche gave the Avalanche a 4-0 lead 6:05 into the second period.
"Everybody was pretty happy for him. He works hard for us. He's valuable to us," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said.
D'Agostini scored a power-play goal midway through the second period, but MacKinnon answered with his 20th of the season five minutes later to restore the four-goal lead.
MacKinnon posted the first three-point game of his young career. He leads all rookies in scoring with 40 points.
"I've been feeling more comfortable. I think I was a little snake-bit at the beginning and could've scored more than I did," MacKinnon said. "Thankfully, things are clicking. I've developed chemistry with guys on the team."
Landeskog scored his 16th of the season early in the third and McGinn made it 7-1 midway through the period with his 14th.
"We just got outplayed in every facet of the game," D'Agostini said. "From start to finish. There was not much to go off of tonight. We have to do a lot better if we want to get some points."
Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson finished with three assists.
NOTES: Avalanche C Paul Stastny was scratched with an ankle injury suffered in Thursday's win over Minnesota. Stastny was hurt late in the third period. ... Buffalo D Christian Ehrhoff was back in the lineup after missing one game with an illness. ... Colorado RW Alex Tanguay was scratched after tweaking his knee Thursday. Tanguay missed almost two months with knee and hip ailments. He has a goal and assist in three games since returning Jan. 24. ... Buffalo assistant coach Joe Sacco returned to Pepsi Center for the first time since being let go as Colorado's coach. Sacco led the Avalanche for four seasons (2009-13). ... Avalanche RW P.A. Parenteau returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for two games
By Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: February 1, 2014 07:22:13 PM
Cliche's first goal highlights Avs' 7-1 rout
|All Times Eastern|