The Blue Jackets lost a 2-1 game in overtime at Buffalo in the first game after the winter break on Saturday afternoon at the KeyBank Center.
Game in a Paragraph
In a sloppy, sluggish mid-afternoon affair, Columbus couldn't find a goal over the opening 40 minutes and trailed 1-0. Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in the third, though, before Jack Eichel's overtime winner as the Blue Jackets now have points in seven consecutive games and 21 of the last 23.
Video: Blue Jackets, 1 - Sabres, 2
Quote of the Game
Head coach John Tortorella: "We didn't want to lose the game, but we give up eight scoring chances. We'll take the point and go. That's a big point for us coming back in the third period. … You're not getting me into a negative thought about this game. It's a huge point for us to start off the break, and we'll go to Montreal."
- Bjorkstrand scored a goal, extending his streak to four straight games with a tally. He has seven goals in that span and 10 in his last seven games.
- Matiss Kivlenieks made his second NHL start and the rookie from Latvia made 22 saves.
Neither team created much in a first period that ended with each squad putting just five shots on net, and Buffalo left the frame with a 1-0 lead as one of theirs went in. Rasmus Dahlin got the puck at the left point and skated in along the wall before finding Evan Rodrigues cutting into the shot, and Rodrigues' shot snuck by Matiss Kivlenieks at 16:08 to give the Sabres the lead.
Columbus had one great chance in the period, as Pierre-Luc Dubois got on the end of a rebound of a shot by Seth Jones, but Sabres goalie Carter Hutton dove over to make the initial stop. The puck still snuck behind him and into the crease, where defenseman Lawrence Pilut kicked it onto the post before Hutton covered it.
Things picked up a bit in the second period, as Kivlenieks was solid and stopped all 11 Sabres shots on goal, and Columbus had a goal disallowed during the frame. Cam Atkinson took a shot from the right wing and Hutton made the save, with the rebound deflecting to Alexander Wennberg in front and into the net off his left skate. After review, though, officials determined Wennberg kicked the puck into the net and waved off the goal.
The Blue Jackets nearly tied the score three minutes into the third as Dubois rang the post on the power play, but shortly thereafter, it was a 1-1 game thanks to Bjorkstrand. Gus Nyquist made a strong move to get the puck into the zone along the right wing boards, then centered a pass that ended up on the stick of Bjorkstrand, who made no mistake by roofing a shot over Hutton's blocker from between the circles with 14:15 to go.
Neither team could find the winner in regulation, leading to overtime. There, it took just 36 seconds for the Sabres to win as Eichel blasted a wrist shot past Kivlenieks' blocker from the right circle for his 31st goal of the year.
1. There did appear to be some rust on the Blue Jackets, especially offensively as some passes just didn't connect that normally might have done so, but the team's defensive identity returned in full force from the time off. As Tortorella said, Columbus gave up just eight scoring chances and on the whole protected Kivlenieks throughout the game. "We didn't give them much at all," Tortorella said. Kivlenieks might want the two goals back but was also solid some of the chances the Sabres did have, and afterward the rookie goaltender credited the defense in front of him. "Today was one of those games that they did a really good job, blocked a lot of shots."
2. There's hot, there's scalding hot, and then there's what Bjorkstrand is doing lately. He looked all game like he had a goal in him and then didn't disappoint with a pinpoint finish for the team's lone goal. His seven-game point streak has been all about the goals, as he has 10 tallies in that span, surpassing his season-ending stretch a year ago in which he had nine goals in 10 games. Just as impressive, he was again strong on the puck, forcing a number of turnovers that led to zone time and chances for the Blue Jackets. "I tried to make sure that I'm going in the right direction, not taking any steps back," he said of his plan of attack over the break. "There's areas I can be better, but yeah, I just want to keep going the right direction."
3. Tortorella spoke glowingly of his team's ability to navigate tight moments, as Columbus wasn't rattled by a third-period deficit, again getting a point out of a situation in which the team trailed. The Blue Jackets are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games when giving up the first goal, and in this one, the team was patient throughout and never opened up, as though it knew the equalizer would come. Early in the season, Tortorella spoke of how important patience is for this team, and the Jackets have embraced that message. "We just stick with it, right?" Bjorkstrand said. "I think everybody has that belief that even though we were behind, we could get back in the game and win it."
Bjorkstrand now leads the team with 17 goals and has tallies in three straight games vs. Buffalo. … Dubois has a 5-16-21 line in his last 21 games. ... Columbus played its 15th overtime game this year, dropping to 6-9 when the game goes past 60 minutes. The Blue Jackets are 6-7 in 3-on-3 OT and 0-2 in shootouts. ... The Blue Jackets did not give up a power play for the fifth time this year and second time in three games. … Buffalo has won just 13 times in 34 games all-time against the Blue Jackets. ... The Blue Jackets recognized the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant by sending just No. 8 and No. 24, Zach Werenski and Nathan Gerbe, to the blue line for singing of the national anthems.
Columbus kept the same 18 skaters as it has in recent games. Health scratches were Sonny Milano and Andrew Peeke, while injured goaltender Joonas Korpisalo and forward Josh Anderson did make the trip but did not play.
The Blue Jackets are right back at it Sunday afternoon with a 2 p.m. game at Montreal.