If the saying doesn't exist yet in Columbus, it will after Friday: As captain Rick Nash
goes, so go the Blue Jackets.
As the Jackets' talisman, Nash entered their game against Buffalo with just five goals on the season, a number matched by his team's total in the win column. Nash skated off the Nationwide Arena ice with two goals, and his team matched season highs for goals and margin of victory by beating the Sabres 5-1.
"Any time you can get a couple goals, it takes the pressure off big-time at home," said Nash, who now has seven on the season. "The guys stuck to the game play right off the start and it seemed to work."
– thought by many to be a retread plugged into the crease to spell a struggling Steve Mason
– had 28 saves. He and the Jackets are 3-0-2 in the last five games. Mark Letestu
, Marc Method and RJ Umberger
also scored for Columbus (6-13-3), and Ryan Johansen
, James Wisniewski
and Jeff Carter
had two assists.
The Jackets are quietly riding a 4-1-2 wave after a brutal 2-12-1 start. At the same time, Nash seems to be waking up, with three goals and two assists in four games.
Buffalo (12-9-1) pulled starting goalie Jhonas Enroth
after he allowed four goals – including two just 12 seconds apart – on 18 shots in the first 25 minutes. Justin Leopold scored the lone Sabre goal.
"I don't know if I've seen it this bad before," said Buffalo's Lindy Ruff, the NHL's longest-tenured coach. "I think we've got seven regulars out of the lineup. We need to make better plays than we did tonight. Obviously when you're short-handed you've got to be good with the puck."
Nash got his first on a power play at 16:19 of the first period when he deflected a Wisniewski blue-line blast past Enroth. He finished the scoring with his second, a tip-in of a sublime cross-ice feed from Jeff Carter
at 14:07 of the second.
Letestu opened the scoring at 10:50 when he pounced on the rebound of Johansen's wrister, firing low to Enroth's left for his third of the season. Nash's goal made it 2-0, and four minutes into the second period, Columbus doubled the advantage and chased Enroth with the two quick tallies.
Methot, a defenseman, scored his first of the season when his long blast found its way past a screened Enroth at 4:17. Before the goal could be announced, Johansen ripped a shot from the right boards that trickled through Enroth's legs. Umberger was first to the puck, and pushed it over the line for his third of the season.
With the game effectively over, Sanford's only mistake came on a pretty individual move from Leopold, who scored his fifth of the season when he took an outlet pass at the red line from Zach Kassian, skated easily around Wisniewski and whipped it past Sanford's glove and into the far post.
After Leopold's goal, Buffalo mounted attack after attack – including a power play – but was continuously foiled by Sanford.
"That was probably the most important part of the game," Sanford said. "Getting the kill at that time was huge. They could have brought to back to two goals but the guys did a really good job boxing out their guys and letting me see the puck."
Minutes later, Nash finished the game off with his seventh of the season.
The Jackets look nothing like the team that spent the first five weeks of the season finding ways to lose.
"We're getting pucks deep, we're not making it hard on ourselves," Nash said of his team's surge. "We're trying not to have any turnovers at the blue lines. It's just a lot simpler game. It seems to work for the people we have in this room."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report