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FINAL: Blue Jackets drop preseason game at Buffalo by 4-3 score

Gerbe scores twice for Columbus, which returns home Friday

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

(photo: Bill Wippert // Buffalo Sabres)

The Blue Jackets continued the preseason Wednesday night in Buffalo with a 4-3 overtime loss against the Sabres in KeyBank Center. It was the Blue Jackets' fifth of seven preseason games.  

Game in a Paragraph 

An early goal gave Columbus, which featured a mixed NHL/AHL lineup, the lead against a Buffalo team playing mostly NHLers. But the Sabres scored late in the first and then on the power play early in the second to take the lead. Columbus rallied, though, with a pair of third-period goals to force overtime before Marcus Johansson's overtime goal won it for the Sabres. 

Video: CBJ@BUF: Gerbe ties game on clutch deflection

CBJ Notables 

  • Nathan Gerbe earned his first two goals of the preseason, including a late tally that knotted the score. 
  • Goaltender Elvis Merzlikins stopped 25 shots for the Blue Jackets and made a number of excellent stops in the second and third periods.  
  • Josh Anderson earned his second preseason goal this year.  

Quick Recap 

Columbus had the better of play in the first period and took a 1-0 lead 5:19 into the game as its reward. The play was made by Gerbe, who twisted Casey Mittlestadt to the ice to win a puck battle in the neutral zone, hopped to his feet, skated in and unleashed a sharp-angle shot that beat goalie Carter Hutton high to the far side with Josh Anderson crashing to the net. 

Video: CBJ@BUF: Gerbe wires a wrister past Hutton

Gerbe and Markus Hannikainen had some good looks later in the period and could not score, and the Blue Jackets couldn't quite shepherd the lead to intermission when Buffalo scored with 52.1 seconds left in the period. Tage Thompson let go a shot from the left point, and it deflected on its way in before going over the blocker of Elvis Merzlikins to make it 1-1 after a period. 

The Sabres then made it a 2-1 game just 2:00 into the second on the power play. Jeff Skinner held the puck in the right circle and found Sam Reinhart behind the defense in front, and Reinhart's excellent redirection got by Merzlikins to give Buffalo the lead. 

Hutton then kept the Sabres out front near the midway point with a nice stop on Paul Bittner on a feed from Nikita Korostelev. From there, Merzlikins was the goalie who had to stand out, as the Sabres came to life late in the second only to watch the Latvian netminder turn aside their last 11 shots on goal of the period.  

Columbus then tied the score 8:02 into the third period as Anderson connected. The real work was done, though, by Jakob Lilja and Scott Harrington, who both made nice passes to set up the goal. Harrington's diagonal pass from the right point to Anderson low on the left allowed the CBJ winger to settle the puck and fire over Hutton to make it 2-2.  

Video: CBJ@BUF: Anderson lifts puck past Hutton

The tie score lasted less than two minutes, though, as with 10:03 to go, Sabres captain Jack Eichel forced a turnover in the CBJ end and quickly fed Victor Olofsson, who one-timed a shot past Merzlikisn to make it 3-2.  

Merzlikins made an impressive pad save on Skinner all alone in front on the next shift then had to deny Rasmus Dahlin back-door with the same right pad shortly thereafter. Those big stops proved key when Gerbe tied the score with 1:56 to play, deftly deflecting Nikita Korostelev's backhander from the slot past Hutton. 

A CBJ turnover proved to be the difference, though, in overtime as Johansson stole a breakout pass and took the puck down low on a 2-on-1 before firing over Merzlikins' glove short-side to earn the win. 

Notable 

Merzlikins has now made three starts this postseason, all on the road.… Columbus was 0-2 on the power play while Buffalo was 1-2. … Gerbe played 188 NHL games with the Sabres and scored 29 goals. ... Scott Harrington was the only Columbus player to wear an "A" for the game. … Buffalo skated its top five point scorers from a year ago while Columbus skated only four players to play at least 50 NHL games a season ago.  

They Said It

Blue Jackets assistant coach Brad Shaw: "I really liked the first period, especially. I thought we kind of woke them up a little bit. I'm not sure they were ready for that kind of start. We went at them. I loved our sticks without the puck, liked our execution, I liked our awareness, and obviously the work ethic was there. It's an unfortunate result at the end."

Gerbe: "I think every game is pretty big that you can an opportunity in, especially later in life and in your career. I think you cherish every moment you get to play and put the NHL jersey on. It's fun with the younger guys and trying to help them along and trying to be vocal on the bench and trying to make the game easier for everyone else."

Roster Report 

The Blue Jackets used the following lines for the game. 

Emil Bemstrom - Alexander Wennberg - Josh Anderson 

Jakob Lilja - Zac Dalpe - Marko Dano 

Markus Hannikainen - Kevin Stenlund - Kole Sherwood 

Paul Bittner - Nathan Gerbe - Nikita Korostelev 

Scott Harrington - Gabriel Carlsson 

Dean Kukan - Andrew Peeke 

Anton Karlsson - Markus Nutivaara 

Up Next 

Columbus returns home for its final two preseason games, hosting New Jersey on Friday night at Nationwide Arena before a Sunday evening game against St. Louis.  

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