Second-period barrage propels Jackets over Sabres
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the Columbus Blue Jackets clinging to a 1-0 lead midway through the second period, the Buffalo Sabres were handed a prime chance to score the tying goal and change the course of the game.
Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly skated in all alone against Sergei Bobrovsky on a breakaway, but the Blue Jackets goaltender showed why he won the Vezina Trophy last year as the NHL’s top goalie.
Bobrovsky rejected the point-blank shot with a sterling skate save, and the Blue Jackets responded with three goals in a three-minute span later in the period, propelling them to a 5-1 victory on Wednesday night at Nationwide Arena.
“Huge play in the game,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “Who know where it goes the way we were playing. We were very fortunate to win the game. That was a real sloppy game.”
Sabres coach Phil Housley lamented the missed opportunity on the second night of a back-to-back that followed a 1-0 over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. Buffalo (3-6-2) had won two in a row but was thwarted in a bid for its first three-game winning streak since February.
“The second period we get that breakaway. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t tie it up,” Housley said. “I think it would have been a big turning point.”
Bobrovsky finished with 34 saves, but none bigger than the one on O’Reilly.
“I thought it was an important one for the game,” Bobrovsky said. “The team needed it.”
The Blue Jackets (6-3-0) went on to extend their franchise-best start to the season with their first win during a four-game homestand that ends Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets. They had lost two in a row.
“That’s a big win, a big bounce-back win for us,” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. “After two losses to come back and get a big win like that, I was really proud of the guys.”
Seth Jones had a goal and an assist, and Oliver Bjorkstrand, Foligno, Matt Calvert and Josh Anderson added the other Columbus goals.
Bjorkstrand opened the scoring 12 minutes into the first period with a power-play goal, but the Sabres controlled play for most of the first 20 minutes despite trailing 1-0.
Jones, Foligno and Calvert broke the game open with second-period goals.
“I liked our compete,” Foligno said. “I didn’t think our first period was as good as I’d like to have seen it, but we found a way to keep it 1-0 and we got some timely goals in the second.”
Jones’ goal came at 15:20 of the second when his shot found its way past Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson, who was screened on the play by Blue Jackets center Boone Jenner.
“The way we played the first wasn’t pretty,” Jones said. “We wanted to come out and make a statement in the second and play a completely different period. I think we did a good job with that.”
Just over two minutes after Jones’ goal, Foligno redirected a shot by Jack Johnson from the right dot with his skate after Chad Johnson was unable to secure the puck. The goal made it 3-0.
The Blue Jackets expanded their lead less than a minute later when Chad Johnson again was unable to maintain control after stopping a shot by Markus Nutivaara. The puck leaked through his pads into the crease and Calvert reached behind him to tap it into the net.
Bobrovsky’s bid for his second shutout of the season ended with 2:34 left when Seth Griffith scored his first goal of the season.
Anderson added the final goal for the Blue Jackets with 38.8 seconds remaining.
“After the first period, we were down by one and we were in a good position to get back in it, but we didn’t respond the right way,” Griffith said.
Johnson, who entered the game with a 5-1-0 career record against the Blue Jackets, made 33 saves for the Sabres.
“Good teams, they don’t beat themselves and they don’t crack,” Housley said. “We shouldn’t have gotten away from our game plan.”
NOTES: Sabres C Zemgus Girgensons returned after missing three games with a lower-body injury. Girgensons was hurt while blocking a shot during a penalty kill against the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 17. ... The Blue Jackets recalled D Markus Hannikainen from AHL Cleveland after C Lukas Sedlak sustained an ankle injury in practice Monday, but he was a healthy scratch. ... The Sabres played a back-to-back for the third time in the first month. They have 13 more this season. ... Sabres F Jordan Nolan played in his 300th NHL game Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings.