For the second time in as many nights, the Buffalo Sabres took on a very good team in the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets, who enter the night boasting a record of 43-17-6, pose as a meaningful challenge to the Sabres who feel they have much to prove in the remainder of their season, especially after a 4-3 loss last night.
The Blue Jackets picked up right where they left off last night in Columbus. Stay-at-home defenseman David Savard, who scored last night for the Blue Jackets, opened the scoring tonight with a blistering shot over the glove of Anders Nilsson.
Blue Jackets captain and big brother to Marcus, Nick Foligno, also got on the board giving the Jackets the 2-0 lead, prompting Dan Bylsma to call an early timeout.
Bylsma’s message apparently fell on deaf ears as perpetual breakdowns and soft defense allowed the Jackets to keep piling on.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, who was left wide open, capped the period off with the Jackets 3rd goal. The Sabres were deservingly booed of the ice.
Whether Dan Blysma gave a ‘ra-ra’ speech, or maybe players caught a glimpse of the Blue and Gold special “The Brawl” during the intermission, the Sabres certainly came out into the second period with new found life.
Jake McCabe got things going early in the second period for the Sabres. Only 18 seconds in, on a pass from Nic Deslauriers, McCabe fired a snap shot past Korpisalo putting Buffalo on the board.
Riding the momentum swing, the Sabres afforded themselves a much needed power-play. After the Sabres top-unit failed to get anything going, the second unit got their chance and capitalized. Matt Moulson, camped in front of the net, slapped home a rebound giving the Sabres their second goal of the period, putting the attempted comeback in full swing.
And as we’ve seen so many times this year, another 3-goal lead was erased, though usually it’s been the Sabres on the receiving end.
Sam Reinhart, with only 2.9 seconds left in the second period scored his 16th goal of the season, giving the Sabres a 3-goal period of their own.
Robin Lehner, who came in to start the second period in relief of Nilsson, was sensational. Making 13 saves, a couple of which on breakaways, Lehner prevented this game from getting completely out of hand.
The see-saw battle came to a halt though in the third period as both teams tightened up their respective games. While both teams traded a handful of power-plays, the biggest challenge for the Sabres was the fact they had to ride four defensemen for an extended length of time in the final frame.
Zach Bogosian was slapped with a 10-minute misconduct, while Cody Franson took a puck to the face.
The Sabres showed resiliency though and on the power-play the two hottest players teamed up for a huge goal.
With under 3 minutes to go in the third period, Jack Eichel found Evander Kane who buried his team-leading 25th goal of the season, giving the Sabres their first lead of the game.
Out of 24 saves on the night, none was more significant than when Lehner stoned Cam Atkinson with a pad save with time winding down in the game.
It’s worth repeating…Robin Lehner was sensational tonight.
Jack Eichel cemented the comeback with an empty-net goal, giving the Sabres the 5-3 victory.
Even though the Sabres are virtually out of a playoff spot they still feel they have a ton to prove. While their latest losing streak featured games with repeated blown leads and lackluster performances, the Sabres pulled out a gutsy win tonight against one of the better teams in the NHL.
The Sabres will head out west to faceoff against the San Jose Sharks Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET.