It took three games, but the Buffalo Sabres finally were able to get their first victory in the Eichel/Bylsma Era. This one over the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. The Sabres were finally able to get consistent offense after two games with only one goal scored in each. Prior to today’s game Buffalo was outscored 7-2 and were not getting production from Ryan O’Reilly or Matt Moulson. Today’s game was different and the Sabres got contribution in a big way both in even strength and on the powerplay.
On the man advantage, Buffalo had decent success against Ottawa and Tampa Bay, with a 20.0% rating in those games. With all the playmakers and scorers added to the roster, it is not surprising that they have had more success. The Sabres have shown much more movement and cycling on the powerplay, which opens up more shooting lanes and generates better scoring chances. Buffalo had three power play goals against Columbus as a result of these improvements.
Early in the second period, Rasmus Ristolainen got the first power play goal and the first of the game with a rocket shot from the point. This would be the only score going into the third period. In the third, Ryan O’Reilly gave Buffalo a much needed insurance goal, his first as a Sabre, on the powerplay again. After a nice play by Matt Moulson, O’Reilly fired a beautiful slap shot from the low slot.
After a Columbus response on the powerplay, a great individual effort by rookie sensation, Jack Eichel, who kept the puck in the zone, circled back around the left circle and fired a laser into the upper corner for his second of the season to put Buffalo up 3-1.
Hartnell put Columbus back within striking distance with another powerplay goal late in the third, but Buffalo showed newfound resilience. They got another chance on the powerplay and Ryan O’Reilly deked around a defender behind the net and found Matt Moulson just outside the crease and the veteran made no mistake with the puck and rifled it past Bobrovsky to put the game out of reach.
The Sabres outshot the Blue Jackets 33-24. A big contribution was probably the seven powerplay opportunities Columbus gave the Sabres, three of which coming from their captain Nick Foligno. Two of Foligno’s penalties resulted in Sabres goals. Chad Johnson also got his first win in a Sabres uniform today and will get a lot more opportunities as Robin Lehner will be out for six to ten weeks with a high ankle sprain.
Buffalo will travel to Florida on Thursday night to take on the Panthers. Columbus will be at home on Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators.
Statistics Courtesy of ESPN.com