After beating the Sabres Friday, the Jackets couldn't sustain a repeat winning performance in the second game of a back-to-back and fell to Buffalo 5-3. The two teams are now even on the season series (1-1-0).
In the first period, the Jackets made things look easy. The team came out with an offensive burst. Goals by David Savard, Nick Foligno and Oliver Bjorkstrand propelled the team to a 3-0 lead that chased Anders Nilsson from the net for Buffalo.
But for the rest of the game, Buffalo made things hard. Robin Lehner was in net and the Sabres were the team to capitalize offensively. Buffalo scored five unanswered goals, including three in the second period to tie the game.
The first Sabres goal came on the first shift of the second period and the last came on an empty net score by Jack Eichel.
"We didn't really follow up in the second," Bjorkstrand said. "I think they scored on the first shift and it went south from there. We tried to battle back but they tied it up and ended up getting the win."
After a smooth opening frame, the game got chippy, and the Jackets suffered 28 penalty minutes against while Buffalo was assigned 32 minutes in the penalty box. Only the Sabres could capitalize on their power play chances. They went 2-for-5 while the Jackets were held scoreless in their three opportunities with the man advantage.
The Jackets had to juggle a bench that was in flux for the majority of the game and not just because of penalties. Ryan Murray played in his first game after missing the previous two due to a lower body injury, but he was on the ice for just 1:44 before he left after blocking a shot with his hand.
Cam Atkinson was also lost for the latter half of the second period after a scuffle in the corner left him down on the ice and with a cut jersey. Atkinson did return for the third period and had a prime scoring chance to even the score with 33.4 seconds left but was denied by Lehner who turned away all 24 shots he faced.
Joonas Korpisalo made 26 saves on 30 shots against.
Here's what we learned.
Video: Foligno on penalties costing the Blue Jackets tonight
You can't let your foot off the gas.
After giving up three goals in the first 20 minutes, the Sabres were booed off the ice by their hometown fans. They roared back in the second with their first goal coming 18 seconds in, and the Jackets couldn't find a way to answer.
"We're out there and you give them life," Foligno said. "You go into the period and then they start to push a little bit, (and we) give them a goal right away. It allowed them back in the game and then they got hungry and got momentum off that and we never seemed to have an answer for it in the second."
More games like this are coming.
Foligno described the Sabres as a team with "nothing to lose, playing for their post-season lives." With desperation comes intensity, and the Jackets will need to be ready for more games like this through the final 15 matches of the regular season.
"I think you have to find a way when you're up in a game like that to finish it off," Sam Gagner said. "It's a good lesson for us. We're going to have tight games like this down the stretch in really important games. You have to find ways to lock it down and make sure that you don't give them any life and that's what happened tonight."
You have to play through adversity.
The Jackets had some roadblocks tonight. They ran with 5 defenseman for most of the game, and lost both Atkinson (injury) and Scott Hartnell (penalties) for long stretches of the night. But a team has to play through it.
The good news is Atkinson "is fine, and played well" according to John Tortorella. And, whether the team has a full or shortened bench for whatever reason, regaining momentum is a skill this team has to master.
"I'm proud of us for battling back," Foligno said. "But it's all for naught because we lost the game tonight. It's disappointing. It's a game we have to find a way to win. Whatever's up against us, whether it's calls that are suspect or what. We have to find a way to battle through and tonight we didn't."