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Blue Jackets score early, keep Sabres winless

by Joe Yerdon /

BUFFALO -- The Columbus Blue Jackets kept the Buffalo Sabres winless, scoring three times in the first period of a 4-1 victory Thursday at First Niagara Center.

The Blue Jackets got to it right away when Cam Atkinson scored 1:51 into the first period.

Thomas Vanek tied it for the Sabres with a highlight-reel one-timer, reminiscent of San Jose Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl's goal from Tuesday night, past Sergei Bobrovsky at 8:50. Last year's Vezina Trophy winner had no issue with the style on the goal.

"I don't like talking about goals," Bobrovsky said with a laugh. "I don't know, he shoot and score. We're happy about the win and that's the most important thing."

Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards offered no comment on it, but his team made it so Vanek's goal wasn't a factor.

Columbus responded when Nick Foligno scored at 16:35 of the first and Marian Gaborik scored his second of the season on a 2-on-1 with Atkinson at 18:48 that made it 3-1.

Atkinson said he wished he could've had two.

"I wanted to shoot that but I kind of just slow-played it," he said. "I saw [Sabres goalie Ryan] Miller kind of go down and the [defense] slide to me, so I just slowed it down and found [Gaborik], who's a goal-scorer, and he buried it."

Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, who pinched in on the play and was a minus-3, said he has to make better plays to prevent odd-man breaks like that.

"You take a look at the third goal, that's a play I can't be making," Myers said. "I have to be much better in decision-making like that. I think my game is at its best when I'm not trying to force things, and that play I was definitely trying to force it."

Sabres coach Ron Rolston viewed Columbus' third goal as a bad one for his team.

"I thought we pressed on the third one," he said. "It's a situation you've got to get out of that first period 2-1."

The open ice in the first period saw the teams combine for 25 shots on goal. Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky said the wide-open play made a difference.

"Their defense pinching gave us a few odd-man rushes," he said. "They're very opportunistic, and obviously it helps them at times and it hurts them at times, and we were able to capitalize at times."

Richards said he only liked the open ice when it was in the Blue Jackets' direction.

"When it was going away from our zone, I liked it. When it was coming back I didn't like it as much," he said. "I think there are some things we can do to attack off the rush and we can generate offense. I think our defensemen are good enough to get up the ice and join the rush."

The second period didn't start any better for Buffalo (0-4-1). Dubinsky scored at 2:11 to make the score 4-1 with his first goal of the season.

"We knew we needed to have a good start," Dubinsky said. "We were fortunate to get one on our first shift of the game. Anytime that happens it gives you a little confidence and an extra jump in your step."

The teams combined for 12 shots on goal in a scoreless third period.

If there was something the Blue Jackets were critical of it was their power play. Columbus was 0-for-4 on the man-advantage, and Richards and Dubinsky regretted they weren't able to get a power-play goal in the second period. Coming into the game, the Blue Jackets were 2-for-5.

Miller, playing his first game since injuring his groin last Friday against the Ottawa Senators, stopped 29 shots. Bobrovsky made 26 saves for Columbus.

The Blue Jackets (2-1-0) head home to face the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon. The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Sabres, who travel to play the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.

Sabres defenseman Mike Weber made it clear there are no excuses to be made.

"I'm tired of hearing it's a young team. I'm really tired of hearing it," he said. "There's no excuses in here. All these guys have played now five games in this League. We need to find a way. …We're going to make mistakes. But we need to make plays. We need to generate something. We need to get something going."

Miller was a bit more positive.

"We're a team in the NHL. We have good players," he said. "We have to execute, and that's the attitude we're going to start taking. That's what we're going to start talking about. Clean it up, move forward and go play some hockey."

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