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Recap: Sabres return from break with hard-fought win in Columbus

Desperate for the playoffs, Buffalo enters home stretch

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

After a lengthy All Star break, the Buffalo Sabres arrived in Ohio’s capital for their first game in a five-game road trip. Their one mission? A win in regulation as they desperately work to obtain their first playoff spot since 2011.

After the opening face-off, both the Blue Jackets and the visiting team came out strong, but it was Buffalo who changed the scoreboard first with a nifty goal from Evan Rodrigues at 2:14 in the first period. Casey Mittelstadt and Conor Sheary were credited with the assists. However, the Rodrigues goal was quickly answered by Columbus center Pierre-Luc Dubois at 3:17.

The opening period became even more exciting for Sabres fans with a quick wrist shot by Sam Reinhart that found the back of the net much to the dismay of Blue Jackets’ goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The goal came at 7:59 with help from the defensive pairing of Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe.

After nearly two minutes passed, Buffalo made the scoreboard read 3-1 thanks to Tage Thompson. Assists came from Zach Bogosian and Rasumus Dahlin, giving Columbus their first two-goal deficit of the game. Despite a Sabres power play, the score would stay as it was until the next period.

The second period began with a Columbus power play rolled over from the first period and a quick rebound goal at :21 from forward Nick Foligno. However, seconds later, quick puck movement by Dahlin and Jack Eichel allowed for Jeff Skinner to make it 4-2 in what turned out to be a very quick first minute of the period. For those of you following closely, that goal was Skinner’s 31st of the season - just six goals behind league leader Alexander Ovechkin.

The home team then responded with a tripping penalty, but it mattered not as the score remained 4-2 in favor of Buffalo until Columbus fought back with a quick two goals in the final three minutes of play in the period, leaving the Sabres stunned as they made their way into the locker room in a 4-4 tie.

At the beginning of the third period, the Sabres battled back on yet another juicy rebound to make it 5-4 at 2:12. Sheary was credited with his first goal since December 22nd with assists from Rodrigues and Bogosian as Buffalo regained their lead for the third and final time.

At 18:04, the Blue Jackets called a timeout in an attempt to regroup and force the game into overtime, but came up short. The final score remained 5-4 in favor of Buffalo, who fought hard for their two points with a total of 34 shots attempted on Bobrovsky.

The Sabres will look to make it two in a row when they visit Dallas tomorrow with the puck drop at 8:30 p.m.

Final: Sabres 5, Blue Jackets 4

Shots on Goal: Sabres 34 | Blue Jackets 37

Sabres Goal Scorers: Rodrigues (6), Reinhart (12), Thompson (7), Skinner (31), and Sheary (8)

Blue Jackets Goal Scorers: Dubois (18), Foligno (13) (PPG), Dubinsky (5), and Atkinson (28)

Three Stars of the Game

1. Rasmus Dahlin (2 A)

2. Conor Sheary (1 G, 1 A, GWG)

3. Casey Mittelstadt (1 A)