In a game of live boards, reduced rink size, and bizarre old clocks, the both teams took some time to adjust to the unfamiliar conditions. After a particularly sloppy, relatively uneventful first period, the two sides entered the first intermission scoreless.
In the opening frame, presumed Rochester Amerks’ starting goaltender, Scott Wedgewood was extremely active, stopping several excellent opportunities in front of the net.
With just 33 seconds remaining in the period, Sam Reinhart just missed hitting Jack Eichel in front of the net for what would have been a shot at a wide open net with Joonas Korpisalo way out of position.
As the clock ran out, a small scrum ensued when Lukas Sedlak went after defensive wunderkind, Rasmus Dahlin. Veterans Kyle Okposo and Patrik Berglund were quick on the scene to come to Dahlin’s defense and diffuse the situation.
Just over a minute into the second period, a nifty back-pass from Berglund hit Alex Nylander entering the Blue Jackets’ zone. Nylander would then dish it over to defenseman, Casey Nelson near the left circle who launched an absolute rocket past Korpisalo to put the Sabres up 1-0.
The Sabres’ momentum was soon thwarted when Columbus received their first of three powerplay opportunities of the evening. In the midst of a line change on the penalty kill, Evan Rodrigues tried to dish the puck to Justin Bailey who appeared to be entering the offensive zone, but instead headed toward the bench.
As a result of the miscommunication, the puck was turned over, giving Michael Prapavessis a clear lane to send a long-range pass down the ice to a streaking Anthony Duclair who dangled one past Wedgewood for the tying marker.
Less than two minutes later, Reinhart put the Sabres back in the driver’s seat, receiving a gorgeous pass from Eichel on their team’s lone powerplay opportunity of the game. Dahlin found Eichel with a long-range dish from the defensive zone, catching the Blue Jackets’ defenders flat-footed for an easy tap-in opportunity to Reinhart out front.
Dahlin-to-Eichel-to-Reinhart. Get used to hearing that, Sabres fans.
With a little over four minutes remaining in the second period, Columbus managed to score an equalizer after a series of outstanding puck movement in the Sabres’ zone.
Adam Clendening received a beautiful pass from Liam Foudy beside the Buffalo net, hammering it past Wedgewood uncontested.
Clendening converts on the give and go to tie the game. pic.twitter.com/dXe29jPiwb— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) September 26, 2018
The Blue Jackets were able to ride that momentum into the third period where they took advantage of both powerplay opportunities that they received in the closing frame.
After an absolutely brutal slashing call on Okposo, Columbus sniper, Artemi Panarin launched a rocket from the right circle, putting his team up 3-2.
Soon after, Berglund would head to the box on a high-sticking call. Doug Glatt...erm... Kevin Stenlund received a perfect pass in the slot from Panarin, launching the puck into the Sabres goal for the final tally of the game.
After pulling the goaltender for the final two minutes of the game, the Sabres did generate a couple of quality opportunities, but ultimately failed to narrow the gap.
Overall, there were some good, and some not so good things to take away from this one. Casey Mittelstadt put forth a much stronger performance after struggling mightily in his first two preseason appearances.
Okposo certainly continued to hit his newfound gear, flying up and down the ice, remaining aggressive throughout the game.
The Skinner-Eichel-Reinhart line continued to generate offense, justifying Phil Housley’s decision to keep them together. Barring something unforeseen, that trio should be the Sabres’ first line as the team squares off with the Boston Bruins on opening night.
On the downside, whatever miniscule chance Wedgewood had of unseating Linus Ullmark as Carter Hutton’s primary backup was completely wiped out after a rather lackluster performance that saw him fighting off pucks in the second and third period.
Defensively, the Buffalo blue line fell apart in the third period after posting a strong effort in periods one and two. After the team’s penalty kill units were bested on all three of the Blue Jackets’ opportunities with the man-advantage, those groups may require some retooling prior to the start of the regular season.
The Sabres will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow evening at PPG Paints Arena. Puck drop is at 7:00PM.
Final Score: Blue Jackets 4 | Sabres 2
Shots on Goal: Blue Jackets 26 | Sabres 33
Sabres Goals: Nelson (1), Reinhart (1)
Blue Jackets Goals: Duclair (1), Clendening (1), Panarin (1), Stenlund (1)
Three Stars of the Game
1. Artemi Panarin (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
2. Anthony Duclair (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
3. Joonas Korpisalo (31 Saves, .939 Save-Percentage)