Robin Lehner played one of his best games as a Buffalo Sabre Friday night at Nationwide Arena, leading the team to a 4-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The first goal of the game would not be scored until the 14:55 mark of the first period, when Jamie McGinn gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead on the power play. The first face off of the power play was won by Ryan O’Reilly, who the passed the puck back to defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Ristolainen’s shot was blocked, but went directly to the stick of Jack Eichel. Eichel’s shot was saved by Blue Jackets’ goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. Luckily for Buffalo, Jamie McGinn was there to pick up the rebound, sliding it past Korpisalo to pick up his 13th goal of the season.
David Legwand gave Buffalo a 2-0 lead with perhaps the craziest goal the Sabres have scored not only this season, but this decade. Buffalo was playing shorthanded following a Mark Pysyk interference penalty, and Legwand, in an attempt to clear the puck, shot the puck down the ice from the Buffalo zone. The puck would eventually land in front of Korpisalo, taking a weird bounce past the rookie goaltender directly into the back of the net, giving the Sabres a two goal lead heading into the second period.
The Sabres were able to extend their lead to three roughly ten minutes into the third when Jamie McGinn scored his second of the night. Shortly thereafter, the Sabres would extend their lead to four when Sam Reinhart scored his 18th of the season off of an assist from Evander Kane. Kane failed to score on a breakaway, but was able to get the puck over to Reinhart as he was skating to the corner. Reinhart put the puck over the pad of Korpisalo, sealing the victory for the Sabres in the process. With his 18th goal of the season, Reinhart takes the lead in the goal scoring category for the Sabres, something that nobody saw coming at the beginning of the season.
Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner was, without a doubt, the best player on the ice tonight, earning his first shutout as a Buffalo Sabre with a 38-save outing. Lehner had a number of highlight-reel saves throughout the game, and even got physical with Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson after Columbus forward Boone Jenner hit Zach Bogosian into the boards. Lehner had one of the most impressive outings of his career tonight, and his efforts earned him the first star of the game.
Jamie McGinn also played a strong game tonight, scoring his 13th and 14th goals of the season. McGinn, who is currently being looked at as someone the Sabres may look to move at the trade deadline, played one of his best games of the season tonight, raising his trade value in the process.
Leading the Sabres in ice time was Rasmus Ristolainen, who currently ranks 10th in the NHL in ice time per game. Ristolainen was on the ice for nearly 25 minutes, picking up an assist and two blocked shots throughout the game.
With the victory tonight in Columbus, the Sabres have officially won the season series against the Blue Jackets, but the teams will meet again on April 8th at the First Niagara Center. The next time Buffalo takes the ice will be Sunday afternoon in downtown Buffalo as the Sabres take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Hockey Day in America.