Defense falters late in a hard-fought contest
The Buffalo Sabres lost a hard-fought affair on Friday, dropping a 4-3 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Buffalo was able to hang with the up-and-coming offensive powerhouse in Columbus, right up until the waning minutes of the third period. Red-hot Blue Jackets Goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky was vulnerable early on, but held strong in net to secure victory for his squad. Bobrovsky came into tonight’s contest with consecutive shutouts in his past three starts.
The Sabres got the scoring started early on when Evan Rodrigues buried his third tally of the season at 2:50. Enforcer Nicolas Deslauriers recorded his first point in 34 games this season with the only assist on the goal. Buffalo’s lead would not last long. David Savard notched his fourth of the season just over three minutes later with a wrist shot from the point, beating Robin Lehner blocker side. In the dwindling minutes of the opening frame, Nick Foligno gave Columbus the lead on the power-play, registering his 23rd of the year.
Down 2-1, the Sabres came out hot in period two. In a night of firsts, Josh Gorges scored his first goal of the season just five minutes into the period. Same Reinhart earned the secondary assist on the play, his 27th of the season. Buffalo dominated puck possession and pace of play for nearly the entire second period, a welcome change. The Sabres nearly escaped the middle frame with the score still tied, until Sam Gagner tallied the Blue Jackets’ second power-play goal of the night with under two minutes remaining. The goal was Gagner’s 17th of the season.
Despite the 3-2 deficit, the blue and gold would not go down without a fight. Six minutes into the third period, Rasmus Ristolainen tied the game with his fifth goal of the season. Though he was not credited with a point on the play, captain Brian Gionta set up an excellent screen on the play, inhibiting Bobrovsky’s view of the shot. Buffalo continued to control play well into the period, registering the first five shots of the period, not allowing a puck on net until the nine-minute mark. Despite a resilient effort to take the lead, a mis-played puck by the underperforming Cody Franson led to the game winning goal. Franson mis-handled a face-off win in his own end, allowing Boone Jenner to steal the puck off of his stick. Jenner then danced around Robin Lehner, who came way out of the net to try and poke check the puck. The goal was Jenner’s 14th of the year.
Though the spiraling Sabres suffered yet another loss tonight, it was not for a lack of trying. Columbus is a very strong team this season with excellent goaltending and offensive prowess. The Sabres did all that they could against a superior opponent. The loss did however highlight the same glaring flaws with Tim Murray’s roster that fans have seen all year. The defense struggled to establish accurate outlet passing in their own end, and Lehner continued to struggle in net. Murray will need to address his defensive roster if he hopes to see his team improve next season.
The Sabres will take on the Blue Jackets again tomorrow night on the back end of a home-and-home. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. at KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo.