The Blue Jackets needed a win like this.
They were in control against the Buffalo Sabres the majority of the night, kept the NHL’s best road team to the perimeter and imposed their offensive will in a 5-1 victory at Nationwide Arena. With the win, Columbus has picked up points in five straight games (3-0-2) and has scored 14 goals in the past four games.
And tonight, the Blue Jackets were the better, hungrier hockey team from the outset.
Mark Letestu got the party started at 10:50 of the first period, slamming home a rebound off a heads-up play from rookie center Ryan Johansen. On the right wing, Johansen wisely directed the puck into the pads of Jhonas Enroth and Letestu scored on the put-back. On their second of three power plays in the opening period, the Blue Jackets made it 2-0 less than 30 seconds into the man advantage. James Wisniewski unleashed a scorcher from the top of the key, and Nash got a chunk of it on the way in for a two-goal lead after 20 minutes.
Buffalo came out in the second period with a better effort, and its first few shifts kept the Blue Jackets in their defensive end. The line of Antoine Vermette, Sammy Pahlsson and Derek Dorsett was one of the best on the ice tonight, and that trio helped produce perhaps the game’s most important goal. Dorsett kept the puck alive in the offensive zone, got it back to Wisniewski who slung a quick pass to Marc Methot. The ensuing wrist shot got all the way through from 60 feet and made it a 3-0 Blue Jackets lead.
R.J. Umberger kept the ball rolling downhill with his third goal of the year just 12 seconds later, beating Drew Stafford to the net and tapping the puck in as it sat on the goal line. At that point, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff pulled Enroth and turned it over to Drew MacIntyre for the balance of the game. Jordan Leopold was the only Sabre to get the better of Curtis Sanford, who was stellar in goal with 28 saves for the Blue Jackets.
Nash’s second goal came off a deft feed from Jeff Carter minutes after a game-changing penalty kill, essentially eliminating any chance of a Buffalo rally.
Tonight’s game was the Blue Jackets’ biggest offensive outburst this season, but the key moment of the game belonged to Sanford. Buffalo went on the power play shortly after Leopold scored, and with a power-play goal, this may have been a totally different hockey game.
The Sabres brought the heat on that power play, creating several high-end chances, which were eventually turned away. Sanford flat-out robbed Luke Adam and Derek Roy on the doorstep, and got some help with a pair of sliding blocks from Methot. Nationwide Arena roared in approval once the Blue Jackets returned to full strength, and the ice firmly tilted when Nash scored less than a minute later.
- Columbus is 4-1-2 the last seven outings after opening the season 2-12-1 the first 15 games. With the win, the Blue Jackets improved to 8-5-1 all-time against the Sabres, including a 4-1-1 record at Nationwide Arena.
- The Blue Jackets scored goals 12 seconds apart in the second period, narrowly missing the franchise record of eight seconds. Methot scored at 4:17 and Umberger scored at 4:29 of tonight's game. The club record of eight seconds occurred Oct. 17, 2008 vs. Nashville when Nikita Filatov scored at 14:18 of the first period, followed by Jakub Voracek at 14:26.
- Letestu’s goal marked the ninth time this season the Blue Jackets have scored the first goal. The club is now 5-3-1 in those games, while going 4-1-0 when leading after the first period and 5-1-0 when leading after two periods.
- More on Letestu: after being held without a goal in 11 games prior to being acquired by the Blue Jackets on Nov. 8, he has scored three goals in eight games with Columbus. In six career games against the Sabres, he has 3-1-4.
- Johansen has collected 5-5-10 his last 15 games after picking up two assists tonight. It is his third career multi-point game. He had been held pointless his first four games.
- Nash has goals in two of the past three games after scoring his sixth and seventh of the season tonight. It was his first multi-goal game since Mar. 19 at Minnesota, when he had 2-2-4, a span of 26 games. The goals come after he had been held goalless the previous seven games.
- Nikita Nikitin has assists in five of seven games with the Blue Jackets with a helper on Umberger’s goal. He has played at least 23 minutes in every game since being acquired from St. Louis on Nov. 11.
- The “Sanford and Son” theme music played in the arena these days means one thing: the man in goal is on a roll. Sanford improved to 3-0-2 with a 1.27 goals-against average and .953 save percentage in six games this season after stopping 28-of-29 shots tonight. He has allowed one goal of less in four of his five starts.
vs. St. Louis Blues
Nationwide Arena | Columbus, OH
Sunday, 6 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com