COLUMBUS - For the first time in their last few games, the Buffalo Sabres were able to come away from their matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night feeling like they did more things well than not against a talented opponent. That feeling only made the outcome more difficult.
The Sabres got to Sergei Bobrovsky early and erased two deficits in the game, only to fall 4-3 on Boone Jenner's winning goal with 5:07 remaining in regulation. The loss was the eighth in nine games for Buffalo.
"The time for learning lessons is past us," alternate captain Josh Gorges said. "Winning games, that's all that matters, that's all that should matter. I said this after the last game, it doesn't matter if you play an ugly game when you get two points. That's the job. And it doesn't matter if you play a good game and you fall short, you didn't get the job done. Tonight was that way."
Video: BUF Recap: Sabres allow late goal to fall to Jackets
Gorges, Evan Rodrigues and Rasmus Ristolainen all scored goals for the Sabres. Ristolainen's goal - a shot from the blue line that was mishandled by Bobrovsky - tied the game at 3-3 with 14:03 remaining in the third period.
It was a defensive-zone faceoff that led to Jenner's deciding goal later in the period. Ryan O'Reilly won the draw, but Cody Franson - thinking the puck would drift further than it did - handcuffed himself and fumbled the puck, leaving Jenner to pick it up alone near the net.
Jenner skated across the net, drawing Robin Lehner out toward the top of the crease, and tucked a backhand shot in behind the Sabres goaltender.
"I thought we did a lot of good things in that game," Franson said. "It's unfortunate that it comes down to that last goal, the way it was. It's a mishandled play on my part. It's not like I was trying to do something cute with it or something out of the ordinary. I was trying to keep it simple, just couldn't get a handle on it."
Bobrovsky entered the game riding a stretch of three straight shutouts, so it was atop the Sabres' list of priorities to pepper him with shots early and often. They ended any thoughts of a fourth shutout when Rodrigues scored a mere 2:50 into the contest.
The rookie stole the puck at the Columbus blue line, setting up a give-and-go with Nic Deslauriers that ended with Rodrigues roofing a far-side shot from the slot.
Video: BUF@CBJ: Rodrigues tallies with wrister from the slot
"I think we wanted to get a lot of shots on him in the first period," Rodrigues said. "We had a goal as a team to kind of throw things at the net. It was good to get one early."
The Blue Jackets would tie the game on David Savard's goal later in the period, and then twice took the lead on goals on the power play. The first was a deflection in the slot by Nick Foligno, the second a shot by Sam Gagner from the half wall past a screened Lehner.
"Our job is to go out there and make sure they don't score," Gorges said of the penalty kill. "Whatever the circumstance may be as to how they get them, there's usually a break down somewhere along the lines that we didn't do our jobs properly. To give up two, that's tough."
Lehner made 35 saves, including several key stops when the game was tied at 2-2 in the second period. That included a breakaway save on Jenner and this glove save on Gagner at his doorstep:
Video: BUF@CBJ: Lehner makes several tough point-blank stops
The Sabres will have a chance at putting together a similar performance when they meet the Blue Jackets again in Buffalo on Saturday, and maybe then they'll come out on the right end of things. Until then, for as well as they played, they're left feeling no different than after their other recent losses.
"It had the feeling of just us letting it slip away," coach Dan Bylsma said. "Every time they get an opportunity they got it. We played a hard game, battled hard in this game and did a lot of good things but come up on the short end."
Eichel's streak ends
Jack Eichel saw his points streak end at 11 games, but he still made his presence felt. The line of Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Matt Moulson had several strong shifts throughout the night, and it was Eichel who caused the takeaway and set the screen for Gorges to score from the blue line in the second period.
Video: BUF@CBJ: Gorges lights lamp with blistering slap shot
"That's what makes our team tick," Gorges said. "When we're hard on pucks, hard on forechecks, creating turnovers, spending a little more zone time in the offensive zone that's when we create. That's when we make things happen."
The Sabres and Blue Jackets conclude their home-and-home set at KeyBank Center on Saturday night. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with the Tops Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.